The Ohio State men’s basketball team will have a new look this year. Three transfers out the door, four new freshmen and the return of assistant coach Chris Jent to the staff just outline the transition in which the team finds itself.
However, there is hope for OSU in 2016-17, which went 21-14 last season with an exit in the second round of the NIT. The team returns its six leading scorers from last season, including its leader on the court and in the locker room, junior forward Jae’Sean Tate, who is rehabilitating from shoulder surgery in late February.
Just minutes before OSU’s tip against then-No. 6 Michigan State at the Schottenstein Center on Feb. 23, the team announced that then-sophomore Tate would miss the rest of the season with a torn labrum in his right shoulder.
Tate, the team’s co-captain with senior Marc Loving, had to sit idle and watch his team miss out on the NCAA tournament. Tate said it was a humbling moment.
“It made us realize we weren’t as good as we thought we were,” he said. “Being injured, you definitely have to be patient. (You) can’t rush into things.”
A month and a half ago, Tate began shooting once again in his rehabilitation process. However, roughly four weeks ago, Tate had another surgery on his right ankle.
It was an arthroscopic surgery done to remove a loose body, said team athletic trainer Vince O’Brien, who worked Tate out in front of the media on Thursday. Loose bodies form when free-floating cartilage becomes detached from the ankle joint causing pain. Tate said that he felt the discomfort all season, and it was the reason he sat out the team’s exhibition game against Walsh on Nov. 8.
“It wasn’t like I needed (the surgery) but it was just annoying,” Tate said. “So I got with the coaches and the trainer, and I’m not allowed to go full contact until August, so I may as well knock both of them out in the summer. I think it was good to do it now.”
He is still wearing a boot for another week because of his ankle surgery, but said that his shoulder is much stronger than it was at the start of rehab.
After a disappointing season in 2015-16, the development of the Buckeyes in the offseason will be crucial if the team should return to prominence in the Big Ten and the NCAA tournament. Tate said he believes he can play at an even higher level now with no nagging injuries.
“With the new coaching staff coming in and how much we are keying in on player development, I think I’m just going to come back healthy and able to worry about getting better as a player and a team leader,” he said. “We’re putting the emphasis on my outside game.”
Tate’s injury could not have come at a worst time for OSU. Facing three straight games versus top-10 opponents on the brink of elimination from the bubble of the NCAA tournament, Tate said that he has a newfound approach toward being a leader.
He began to pay attention to the finer aspects of the game and tell players when they came to the bench what they can improve on.
“I might be vocal, but I have to understand that everybody doesn’t think or process information that same way. We have a lot of different characters on the team,” said the 6-foot-4 junior. “Some people may need to be yelled at and some people may need to be talked to on the side privately. I just got to figure out how I can reach more of my teammates and lead by example.”
The 2015-16 season was only the second time in Matta’s 12 seasons at OSU that he made the NIT and not the NCAA tournament. That stat hasn’t added pressure to Tate, but rather motivation to get back to that stage this year. On top of all of that, it’s Loving’s final season with the Scarlet and Gray, and Tate understands it’s been awhile since OSU had won anything of significance.
“I don’t want to be remembered at Ohio State for one of the worst teams. This is my legacy that I’m trying to build, and being a captain of this team two years in a row, it reflects me,” Tate said. “I’m trying to work hard and make sure I can at least leave here with some type of ring or type of title.”
Tate and the Buckeyes open the season on Nov. 11 in Annapolis, Maryland, versus Navy.