Undrafted Houston Rockets Jae’Sean Tate excels in second NBA season

CLEVELAND – Jae’Sean Tate can hear the screams from the bench as he collects the ball. These are the same ones he heard in Pickerington Central, the ones repeated by opponents of the Big Ten and ultimately transported overseas.

“He’s going to the left!” They shout.

That wasn’t enough to stop the now 6-4, 230-pound Tate from becoming an All-State second-team player as a prep junior. That hasn’t stopped him from winning at least one All-Big Ten honor in each of his four seasons at Ohio State.

And now, somewhat improbably, they still can’t stop him at the highest level of professional basketball. In his second season with the Houston Rockets, Tate is asserting himself as a true NBA player with an expanding game.

But yeah, he’s probably still going left.

“It’s pretty funny when I keep doing it,” said Tate, sitting along the baseline at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, at The Dispatch after a recent morning shootout. “I don’t know how people forget.”

Jae’Sean Tate overcomes several setbacks on long road to success

The list of obstacles that should have kept Tate from creating an NBA roster, let alone sticking to one, is long. An undersized post player in college whose restlessness and courage allowed him to rise above his post, Tate won an invitation to the 2018 NBA Summer League from the Milwaukee Bucks , but suffered a broken little finger on his right hand during his last practice and was unable to participate in playing action. He landed a test contact in Belgium, played it in a season contract complete while helping the Antwerp Giants reach the Champions League averaging 17.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists and returned to the United States to adjust to Denver at the summer 2019 league.

He lost a game to an earthquake, received an invitation to Oklahoma City fall camp but signed to play in Australia for the Sydney Kings. An outstanding second professional season came to a screeching halt when COVID-19 shut down the world and also called off some of the NBA spring practices Tate had lined up. Even a scheduled appearance in this summer’s basketball tournament, designed to help keep his profile high, was shut down when he contracted the virus.

Ohio State Men’s Basketball:Jae’Sean Tate: triumphing over tragedy

Fast forward four months, and Tate had signed with the Rockets as an undrafted free agent.

“It’s just awesome enough to look back and look through all the adversity, all the doubts about how far I could go and just being here, I’m thankful for these stockings because it has. made the tops so much better, “he said.

As a rookie, Tate started 58 games for Houston, averaged 11.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, and was named to the NBA Rookie First Team. The other four members were among the top 20 picks in the draft.

“I have moments (wow) every day,” Tate said. “Every day is a blessing and every day is a surreal time for me where I can wake up and put on clothes with the NBA logo on it and play for the Houston Rockets and travel from city to city and people know who you are. It’s just awesome.

No “sophomore meltdown” in second season with Houston

On this Wednesday morning, Tate is particularly excited for tonight’s game against the Cavaliers. After playing in empty arenas last season during the pandemic, this will be Tate’s first time playing in his home country with his family. More than a dozen family members are expected, from his grandparents to his father, Jermaine, also a former Buckeye.

When he is the fourth announced starter, Tate is the only Houston player to receive a handful of applause. Before the opening point, he takes the ball from the referee, spins it in his hands, nods and returns it with a smile. With Tate alongside Cleveland’s Lauri Markkanen, the No.7 pick in the 2017 Draft, the game begins and the ball finds its way to former Buckeye on first possession.

Tate goes left, walks around Markkanen, comes to the edge and returns a left-handed scoop that doesn’t fall. It’s a sign of what’s to come for the Rockets, who are missing their top four scorers (Tate is fifth) and won’t be in a game tonight for this Cavs team. When Tate gets his first break with 3:21 remaining in the first quarter, Cleveland leads 19-10. When he returns with 7:26 left in the second, the Cavs have pushed their lead to 50-25 and will lead by over 40 points for the stretches.

“It’s always nice to come home and be able to play in front of your friends and family,” Tate said after the game. “It was great. It was drugs. I’m glad they got to experience an NBA game. Most of them didn’t go to a game I got to play.

Otherwise, it was a tough night for the Rockets. With a home game the following night against New York, Tate played 28:40 and finished with 12 points and six rebounds in a 124-89 loss. During the game, coach Stephen Silas had to leave the bench for dehydration, leaving assistant coach John Lucas to replace him for the remainder of the game.

“Truly a quality pro,” Lucas said of Tate. “He knows what it’s like to get better and better. Tonight was tough because they had length on him. Jae’Sean is what you build a team around. He’s called a culture guy, and he’s a great asset to our team. He’s a great guy to work with.

Average of 12.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game as of December 21, Tate is in the final year of a two-year deal signed with the Rockets in November 2020. In August, l The team has fully guaranteed his salary of $ 1.52 million for 2021. -22.

What lies ahead is unknown, but for a player who only reached the league at the age of 25, there is still a lot of work to do.

“You always have to have a chip on your shoulder because as hard as it has been to get here, it’s easier to get out of here,” Tate said. “Once you get out of here, it’s very difficult to come back. It’s almost impossible to get in, but to come back is almost impossible. That’s what I just remembered, is that I want to be here for a long time.

Considering the trip, who is betting against him?

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@AdamJardy

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