Jae’Sean Tate could be forgiven for thinking a chance at the NBA just wasn’t in the cards.
Fresh out of Ohio State last summer, the Pickerington Central product was going through his final practice before playing for the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA Summer League when he suffered a broken pinky finger on his right hand. It sidelined him for the entire slate of games, significantly reduced his professional options and ultimately led to a trial contract playing in Belgium.
Now, after having turned that trial into a full-season contract, Tate hooked up with the Denver Nuggets and was set to make his official Summer League debut when the Las Vegas ground began to move. It was July 5, and as the earthquake reached Sin City it forced the cancellation of the final game of the night — a scheduled game between Phoenix and Denver.
“I’m like, it just ain’t meant for me to play,” Tate told The Dispatch on Sunday while watching the Kingdom Summer League at South High School. “After breaking my finger day before and then an earthquake. An earthquake. The last game of the day. It’s crazy, but it happened when it was supposed to happen. Denver gave me a good opportunity.”
It’s the kind of attitude that helped turn Tate into a four-year starter at Ohio State and a second-team all-Big Ten player and captain as a senior despite often playing as an undersized post player. His passion and grit made Tate a fan favorite, and those attributes were on display for the Nuggets in the four games they played.Join the conversation at Facebook.com/groups/BuckeyeXtraFans and connect with us on Twitter @BuckeyeXtra
Tate averaged 7.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game while shooting 50.0 percent from the field (12 for 24) and 30.0 percent from three (3 for 10). After playing a team-high 23 minutes off the bench in an 84-79 win against Orlando on July 7 and posting a stat line of seven points, three assists and two rebounds, he started July 9 against Boston and had six points and two rebounds in 24 minutes of playing time.
One night later, Tate started against Golden State and finished with nine points and 10 rebounds in a 73-69 loss and then closed out the league with seven points and three rebounds in a Saturday loss to Houston. He departed without any assurances about his future.
“I think I played well, showed my versatility,” he said. “I had a good Vegas. Right now we’re trying to hear back. It’s a loaded squad, but Summer League is not just a tryout and an audition for just the team you’re playing for, so who knows? I may have interest from other teams.”
That applies well beyond the NBA. After his season with Antwerp, where he helped the Giants reach the Champions League while averaging 17.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists, Tate finds himself in a different position than a year ago.
“With being a rookie, injured, there wasn’t a lot of options I had to choose from whereas this year even if the NBA option isn’t what I want it to be then my overseas options have quadrupled,” he said. “I’ve got a real opportunity to go play for some really good teams and I get to choose this time instead of having to take something.”
The hope is that his time in the Summer League, plus his planned appearance in the upcoming The Basketball Tournament as a member of team Big X (coached by former teammate Andrew Dakich), will lead to an NBA team camp invite. The tournament gets underway Friday at Capital University.
If not, Tate’s journey for the last year has just reaffirmed a few things he’s always believed about himself.
“If you watched me in college or even in high school I knew I was going to find a home (last year) from what I know I’m capable of doing, and that’s playing hard and trying to win as many games as possible,” he said. “Sometimes you’ve got to bet on yourself and when the time comes when you have to perform, just trust that you put the work in and that it’s going to happen.”