By Stefan Djordjevic/ firstname.lastname@example.org
The 2018-19 Basketball Champions League is three weeks into the regular season and what three weeks it has been. Game-winning buzzer-beating shots, double overtimes, experienced ‘big guns’ showing off, upset after upset…
And one of those upsets, the latest one, was Telenet Giants Antwerp winning against title contenders Hapoel Jerusalem. How did they do it? Jae’Sean Tate and Victor Sanders.
Both arrived from the USA, both were born in 1995, both overcame injuries, both went undrafted in the 2018 NBA Draft, both tried out the Summer League and both chose the Giants for their first professional contract. The rookies dropped combined 46 points (Tate 24, Sanders 22) against a far more experienced Hapoel team. And Tate’s journey is one of a kind.
Hurt, shattered, angry at the world
It was in July 2004 when the eight-year-old Tate would have his world turned upside down. His mother, Cori Key, was planning a trip to Toronto for her birthday and called Tate’s grandmother Deniese to take care of him for a few days.
But Tate felt something was wrong. He tried with all his might to convince his mother not to leave but unfortunately, she didn’t listen. That was the last time Jae’Saen saw her. Cori Key was found dead in the bathtub of her apartment, killed with a single stab to the chest.
It took three years for the murderer to get convicted and Tate felt lost. He could barely comprehend what was happening for the first year or so, and after he did, it took therapy and anger-management so he could cope with it.
“I was very young, I didn’t realize what was really going on until later, and you’ve just got to think that everything happened for a reason and it was just her time to go and to live my life the best way I can, make sure my siblings are OK, make sure my family is OK, be the man that you would think she would have wanted you to be if she had raised you. That’s my whole thing and that’s why I try to carry myself the way I do, just to try to make her proud, Tate said on an occasion, per Columbus Dispatch.
The whole ordeal is the reason he tattoed a key on his left leg, dedicated to his mother.
From almost giving up to becoming the captain
Tate arrived at Ohio State University ranked as no. 1 among high school players in Ohio as well as 15th power forward on ESPN’s Top 100. He was posting 8.8 points and five rebounds per game as a freshman and would occasionally play as a center in a lineup which featured D’Angelo Russell.
In his junior year, Ohio had issues and the negativity in the locker room affected Tate too. It bothered him so much that he even thought about giving up on basketball and trying his luck with football. However, an open talk with coach Thad Matta changed his mind.
And Tate didn’t regret it. He became the captain and averaged 12.3 points and 6.2 rebounds per game as a senior on an NCAA Tournament squad that finished 25-9. He was named to the Second Team All-Big Ten.
Call the doctor
It was time to get ready for the next step, it was time to go pro. Tate didn’t know where the path will lead him but he knew one thing, he knew what to improve. It was his long-range shooting and ‘shot doctor’ Joey Burton was the man who helped him.
Jae’Sean worked tirelessly. He would hit the gym at 1 a.m. if he could, to work on his shot.
It wasn’t enough for a jump to the NBA and the Antwerp Giants gladly took the opportunity to sign the young player. And guess what, those 24 points against Hapoel Jerusalem? They came with five out of seven from behind the arc. Talk about a confidence boost…
It was worth it for Tate and we can’t wait to see how much he’ll grow together with his new team in the Basketball Champions League.
Photo Credit: Basketball Champions League