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Long before the night in early February when his brother called and told him to hurry and turn on the Jazz-Knicks game, Wat Misaka knew about Jeremy Lin.

Having a bond with him that only the first Asian-American in pro basketball history could possess, Misaka sent him a note during Lin's time with the Golden State Warriors last season, basically advising, "Be ready when you get your chance."

Anyone would have to say Lin took the suggestion rather well.

In the process, he's re-energized the New York Knicks, stirred interest in Misaka's story of 65 years ago and inspired pride in my neighborhood.

Chinese-American families live on each side of me, and there's excitement about this guy who was mostly unknown until he exploited past and present Jazz point guards Deron Williams, Devin Harris and Derek Fisher. Even when the Knicks' seven-game winning streak ended in Friday's loss to New Orleans, Lin scored 26 points — although turnovers (nine) remain an issue for him.

Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin, whose team was ransacked in Lin's first start, is an admirer. "He's a humble kid that's worked his way into an opportunity that he's taken advantage of, and I'm happy for him," Corbin said. "I thought he was a tough, tremendous kid that wasn't going to be deterred."

That pretty much summarizes Misaka's story, with the University of Utah.

Misaka was celebrated in the old Madison Square Garden, where Utah beat Kentucky for the NIT championship in 1947. The Knicks were compelled to draft the 5-foot-7 guard, a Japanese-American from Ogden.

As a player who appeared in three games for the Knicks before being unceremoniously released, for reasons he's still not sure of, Misaka is receiving a lot of attention lately. His basketball career already was being heralded in a recent documentary, "Transcending: The Wat Misaka Story." Because of Lin's emergence, the calls just keep coming. It's all well deserved, considering the courage Misaka showed in playing for Utah, while representing a culture of people caught in the middle of World War II.

On the way to the 1944 NCAA Championship and even after serving for the U.S. Army and coming back to Utah, Misaka persevered through racial taunts. Lin, a son of Taiwanese immigrants, has experienced some prejudice. But he's become a unifying force in New York and, as Misaka said, a "boost" to the Asian-American community.

My one-person Chinese-American focus group supports Misaka's theory. Kevin Yang, the teenager next door, shoots hoops in his driveway, so I guessed he'd heard of Lin. Are you kidding? The normally reserved kid proceeded to recount Lin's life story, from Harvard to being undrafted to Golden State to the D-League to being cut twice this season to electrifying the Garden, and later emailed me more thoughts about how Lin inspires him.

As an Asian-American, "he grew up with the same obstacles as most of my friends have," Kevin wrote. "He was my favorite player even before he rose to fame, just because of his story. … He deflects all this attention as a humble person and gives it all to God."

This is good stuff. Everybody benefits from witnessing athletes who defy stereotypes and make us recognize that all anyone needs is a chance to perform.

Misaka once was one of those people, and he delivered for Utah. And now, at age 88, he's enjoying Lin's showing — the only trouble being that the Knicks don't visit Salt Lake City this season. "It's unbelievable, really," said Misaka, a Bountiful resident. "The whole world is noticing."

There's a good word for what Lin is doing. It's just that thanks to Wat Misaka, "transcending" is already taken.

Twitter: @tribkurt —

Lin's statistics during the Knicks' 7-1 run

Date Opponent Min. Pts. Ast.

Feb. 4 New Jersey 36 25 7

Feb. 6 Jazz 45 28 8

Feb. 8 Washington 36 23 10

Feb. 10 L.A. Lakers 39 38 7

Feb. 11 Minnesota 39 20 8

Feb. 14 Toronto 43 27 11

Feb. 15 Sacramento 26 10 13

Feb. 17 New Orleans 40 26 5