It wasn’t until the very end, when the beep sounded that forever sealed Arkansas ’two-point victory over Texas Tech, that Razorback keeper Jalen Tate could feel confident his team had advanced to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16.
So, in order for the guy from the Tate family to get so deep into the March madness, it only took three men who tried four times in a period of 22 years. Jermaine didn’t get there with the Cincinnati Bearcats in 1999 or 2000, although the Bearcats were more of a seed both times. His eldest son, Jae’Sean, shot in 2018, but his Ohio State Buckeyes lost a tough battle in the second round. The younger son Jalen will go where no Tate man has gone before.
However: Jermain’s daughter Jada, sister of Jae’Sean and Jalen, scored 12 points with a narrow victory earlier this month that Tiffin College from Ohio moved to Division II Sweet 16. So who really has the right to brag?
“In fact, Jada has the right to brag for now,” Jalen told Sporting News with a wide smile. “We give Jadi all the props, all the merits. We are definitely full behind it.
“But I’m not done yet.”
Really. Elite Eight and Final Four are calling for the Razorbacks, though they will have to win a Sweet 16 game on Saturday at 7:25 p.m. against the Oral Roberts and then defeat the winner between Baylor and Villanova to win the NCAA Southern Region.
And it could be said that the universe owes the Tate Final Four family after what happened to Jermaine’s Bearcats in the 1999-2000 season.
With Jermaine as the team’s starting center, defensive wizard averaging 1.1 blocks and 4.6 rebounds in 24 minutes per game, Cincinnati entered the post-season basketball 21-2 years ago with a 1st-place ranking 21 years ago. Then Jermaine’s partner at the front, Kenyon Martin, the one-man national player of the year, broke his leg in a routine game and his student career ended. After losing in the second round of the NCAA tournament 10 days later than Tulsa, he also lost Jermaine.
The only chance for Jae’Sean to celebrate the NCAA tournament came in 2018, when Chris Holtmann took over the Buckeyes program and 1-2 shots by Tate and Keita Bates-Diop led the state of Ohio to a successful 25-9 season. But an early exit from the Big Ten tournaments led to 5th place in the NCAA tournament, which meant he was tied with 4th seed Gonzaga in the second round. The Buckeyes rallied from halftime but fell 90-84.
Jalena’s first shot in March blocked COVID-19. In northern Kentucky he was the MVP of the Horizon League tournament while the Nordics won the league’s automatic NCAA bid in March 2020, one of the last conference tournaments to end before a pandemic shut down all college basketball two days later.
This is his moment and his father feels it deeply.
“It’s crazy because I mentioned it to my daughter the other day: Wow, you and Jalen got to Sweet 16, and neither of us ever did,” Jermaine told SN. “Everyone has achieved something different that I have not. I have a younger daughter Jocelyn who is going to Bowling Green next year and the three of them have won the state championship; Jalen is not. And now he’s reached Sweet 16. So that’s almost all. That Sweet 16 is a whole ‘second ball game.’
As might be expected from two brothers who have been playing the same sport for several years, Jae’Sean and Jalen have been very competitive, but they are much different players. Jae’Sean was built like an NFL outside quarterback and confused experts at all levels of the game. He seemed to be built as the leading scorer in the history of the Central American Conference, too small a powerful striker to physically overcome a range of 6-8 centers in that league. Instead, he went into the Big Ten and became a four-year starter and top 20 scorer in his career in the state of Ohio.
He also broke through in the NBA, after stopping in Belgium and Australia. He became the Houston Rockets starter and averaged 10.4 points and 5.3 rebounds.
“I actually talked to my brother last night and I had to be sure,‘ Did you get to Sweet 16? ’” Jalen told SN. “Having these boastful rights over my brother and father is something I love about the success so far in college.
“My brother has a rebuttal, as far as the NBA is concerned.”
Jalen took the middle main route, signing to play for John Brannen in northern Kentucky but a red shirt due to a hand injury the first year, when the Nordi reached the NCAA tournament and lost to Kentucky. He got stuck after Brannen went to Cincinnati and enjoyed the season playing for Darrin Horn and winning that Horizon championship, but the opportunity to move last spring as the city transfer brought opportunities to Georgetown, Gonzaga, Minnesota and his father and brother’s alma masters, Cincinnati and Ohio State. He chose Arkansas and coach Eric Musselman.
It is an ideal choice. Joining colleagues Jalen Smith (Indiana) and JD Notae (Jacksonville) and freshmen Moses Moody and Jaylin Williams, Jalen Tate is part of an extreme transformation of the Razorbacks program. While last year’s Hogs were a 3-point fiery team and keeper Mason Jones tried 194 and Isaiah Joe an incredible 275, no one on this team tried even 170. These Razorbacks play a fast-paced style that depends more on the nation. 10 defense.
Jalen fit in perfectly with the operation in Arkansas, bringing a thoughtful, calming presence to the attack and its intelligence and length to the defensive end. It was an important part of Yes that kept Oral Roberts guard Max Abmas, the nation’s leading scorer, at 11 points – well below his 24.5 average – in a December non-conference game Arkansas won 87-76.
“He was very capable of pulling out of range and we worked on that a lot in practice,” Jalen said. “I think we were a little too soft on his pick-and-roll covers when I look back at the film now. We’ll definitely have to adjust to that, especially when it’s with him and (forward Kevin) Abanor high-ball display – just keep them under control and be able to push through the screens and break through as much as we can.
“If we can do that, I think we can have a pretty good chance of slowing them down.”
As could be inferred from that answer, Jalena’s future could lead him to coaching after the end of his playing career. Jermaine has played 10 seasons abroad, in so many nations that it’s hard to remember each one in an instant. He has been to Venezuela, Argentina, Turkey and Croatia. He played throughout the year for the first half-dozen years, going from place to place, depending on which state he was in the season. He played in Japan for the last three years.
It distanced him from his family, but not so much that he was not around to train each of his children as a basketball player.
“I was definitely rude to them,” Jermaine said. “I had to adjust to the girls. I realized they didn’t respond the same way. I don’t know if it was because they saw how heavy I was towards the boys.
“It’s as if every other coach would have to. You have to treat everyone differently. As for Jae’Sean and Jalen, I could have hooked them up pretty much the same way, but I had to deal with it a little differently with Jalen. But at the same time, I had to teach less with him. People always say: What does good do? And I say: He is the brain. He knows everything. You can get something out. He’ll get it, and he can still. He was always like that. ”
Jermaine drove across Interstate 70 to Indianapolis for the first two Razorbacks games and plans to be there this weekend for the Oral Roberts game and what could be next. He could have seen a few games in Arkansas in person, but missed the SEC tournament because he was at Jada’s Sweet 16 game in Tiffin.
It’s the kind of enthusiasm that only a parent can know, and at the same time a reminder of what happened to close their own college career two decades ago.
“I’m definitely thinking about it, thinking about how great it would be,” Jermaine said. “Things just happen and that’s what I’m trying to explain to Jalen.
“You see how this seed falls, you know you have COVID – things always jump in there which affects the road and in the end you just want to be on it. This happened, happened and happened and it was meant for you to win it. And just enjoy the ride. Because there will always be a what-if with me. That’s why you have to appreciate and enjoy it. “