The longest season of Jae’Sean Tate’s life almost didn’t happen.
Tate, the former Ohio State forward, has spent his first professional season playing for the Antwerp Giants in Belgium, where he’s averaging 17.3 points and 8.5 rebounds for a team that reached the 2019 Basketball Champions League Final Four and finished third.
It’s been a strong professional debut for Tate. It’s just not exactly how he envisioned things going when he graduated from Ohio State following the 2017-18 season. In an interview with former Buckeyes big man Evan Ravenel and Wake Forest product L.D. Williams on their “unRavLD” podcast, Tate described the process by which he missed out on the NBA and found himself overseas.
“I didn’t get a Portsmouth (Invitational) invite,” Tate said. “I didn’t get a combine invite. And I finished my senior year second team all-Big Ten, thinking I set myself up to have a pretty good opportunity to show my talents. I didn’t get NBA workouts until the last week, the week before the draft.”
A former coach got him a workout with the Utah Jazz, he said, which led to workouts with Indianapolis, Chicago and Milwaukee. The workout with the Bucks was his best, he said, and it led to a spot on their summer league team.
Or, it was supposed to.Join the conversation at Facebook.com/BuckeyeXtra and connect with us on Twitter @BuckeyeXtra
“I did everything I was supposed to do, I was making shots at a high clip, guarding multiple positions, doing my thing,” he said. “Last thing before practice was supposed to end, I broke my finger. All I could do was really laugh because in my career this is going to be my fifth summer in a row having surgery. I’ve been through so much worse that the finger, it wasn’t that much of a big deal for me but it did not let me get the opportunity to show my talents in the summer.
“They went a different route. That’s just how it goes. I didn’t really get any exposure because I didn’t get to play in summer league.”
As an undersized post player who had struggled with his outside shot at Ohio State, Tate said a lot of teams just “weren’t willing to take the risk” to sign him to play overseas. Antwerp was the exception, but it came with a catch.
“Antwerp, they said one of our guys are hurt, we’ll bring him in on a tryout,” he said. “My tryout was from the beginning of September until December. We were trying to qualify for Champions League. I was averaging almost 18 and 10 and they ended up signing me for the year.”
The biggest on-court adjustment, Tate said, was recognizing that he wasn’t going to play 30-plus minutes a game like he’s done throughout his career. Off-the-court life brought challenges, too.
“Born and raised in Ohio,” he said. “Never left Ohio for more than probably three weeks, so coming over here, all you know if what you see on TV. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know they had cars like this. I thought they were still living in the Dark Ages, you know? I didn’t know what I was going to eat. I didn’t know how the money worked. Coming over here, I’m telling you, I adjusted so quick. There’s been only once where somebody has been, ‘I don’t speak English.’ Everybody here speaks English.
“I’ve been to 13 countries. I hadn’t ever been out of the States 10 months ago.”