Wednesday, March 24, 1999

Tate not bitter at Buckeyes

UC forward supporting ex-teammates

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        If Jermaine Tate hadn't left Columbus, he would not have been in Columbus last weekend. Had he not been asked to depart the Ohio State basketball team and then chosen to transfer to join the Cincinnati Bearcats, he would have been with the Buckeyes as they defeated St.John's to earn a position in the NCAA Final Four.

        But Tate was merely an interested spectator as the Buckeyes defeated higher-seeded Auburn and St.John's in Knoxville, Tenn.

        With UC on spring break and the Bearcats out of the tournament, Tate visited his girlfriend in Columbus and said he watched with no bitterness as the team that dismissed him earned two of the biggest victories of its recent basketball history, which advanced the Buckeyes to a position opposite Connecticut in the NCAA Tournament semifinals.

        “I'll cheer for them. I don't have anything against the players,” said Tate, a 6-foot-9 power forward who averaged 4.3 points and 4.7 rebounds as a junior with the Bearcats. “I really don't care for the school or whatever, but I want the players to win. I can't hold a grudge forever.”

        Of the players on Ohio State's roster, only guard Neshaun Coleman and forward Jason Singleton were teammates of Tate, a surprising fact given that there were six sophomores and three freshmen on the roster when he played with them in 1996-97.

        Tate has noticed changes in those two, especially Singleton, since Jim O'Brien came from Boston College to be the Ohio State coach. And Tate was impressed with how the Buckeyes handled the pressure and challenge of competing in the NCAA Tournament at the regional level.

        “I was real surprised by the wins, but as I watched the teams they played, I could see how good (the Buckeyes) were,” Tate said. “This is the first time I really saw them look like they really enjoyed playing.

        “I thought Auburn was a lot better than they were, and St.John's — they played a pretty good game. I saw another side of Ohio State that I didn't think they had.”

        When Singleton was a sophomore with Tate, he averaged 9.1 points and shot .465 from the field but did not impress his teammates as a future cornerstone of a Final Four club.

        This season, Singleton has used his athletic ability to shoot .641 from the field and grab 160 rebounds.

        “Jason never really had the confidence when I was there,” Tate said. “He looked a lot more comfortable playing now. He's smiling a lot more. He's not hesitant to do a lot of things. He was always athletic; we saw a lot of things that people didn't see.

        “He did a lot of stuff in practice and then he didn't do it in games. I think he really didn't believe in himself before. He was always looking over his shoulder.”

        Tate was released from the Ohio State team along with Trent Jackson and Shaun Stonerook in the fall of 1997 for “failure to live up to their obligations as student athletes.” Tate believes it had to do with his participation in a summer-league game without being officially cleared by OSU physicians.

        Tate's stepfather, Dwight Stewart, thought the Buckeyes wanted Tate's scholarship.

        At the time, with UC interested, it appeared to be an opportunity for Tate to go from a program that would be rebuilding to one that already was built to top-10 status.

        And aside from this year's second-round NCAA Tournament loss, Tate's time at UC has gone basically as planned. But who knew what would happen in his rear-view mirror?

        “It's just a part of life. That's my past, and I went on,” Tate said. “I'm happy where I am. With a difference of maybe a couple possessions, or a different seed or something, maybe we could have been there.

        “I think UC was a better choice for me as an overall player.

        “I've learned a lot of stuff, addressed a lot of weaknesses that I had at Ohio State. They taught me to be a scorer, and I had a lot of confidence. Once I put that together with my defense that I've learned here, I'll have a total package.

        Tate frequently has visited Columbus to see his girlfriend, so he's not been far removed from the resurgence the Ohio State program enjoyed this past winter, going from 10-17 to 8-22 to, suddenly, 27-8 and its first Final Four since 1968.

        “I've been around Columbus the whole year, while they've been winning and surprising people all year,” Tate said. “It's time to quit letting it be a surprise and just expect it.”


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Ohio State's Final Four history
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UConn's Hamilton ready for NBA