April 23, 2013 10:35:03 AM
Persistence is an essential part of the recruiting process.
With an advocate like Erise Wilson on his side, Jason Tate has enough tenacity to attract the attention of the busiest of coaches.
It also helps Tate has the skills to keep the coaches interested when he finally has their time.
The former New Hope High School product made the most of a recent opportunity to work out with the East Mississippi Community College men's basketball team. Not only did he hold coach Mark White's attention, but he also earned something more important: a chance to play basketball at the next level.
On Monday, Tate finalized that offer when he signed a scholarship to play for EMCC.
"With faith in God anything can happen," Tate said.
Wilson, the coach of Team Elite, an Amateur Athletic Union travel ball team, has coached Tate for the past two years. The team has traveled to events throughout the country, including one this past weekend in Birmingham, Ala., in which Tate paced the team in scoring with several 30-plus point showings. Wilson said he sent countless emails and made numerous phone calls to college coaches in an attempt to find Tate a chance to play. Although it was difficult to get the coaches to take the time to learn about Tate, who is home-schooled and didn't have a boys basketball team to play with in the fall and winter, Wilson said he drove to schools to give coaches information and stayed on the phone and at the computer. On a return trip from the University of Southern Mississippi, Wilson thought he would drop in at EMCC in Scooba and see if he could get a few minutes of White's time. Even though White was busy, Wilson said the right things and caught White's ear. It didn't take long for White to tell Wilson to bring Tate and another one of his AAU players back to the campus for a shot to play with members of his team.
Needless to say, Tate, a 5-foot-11, 140-pound guard, was unsettled when he found out he had a play-date in Scooba.
"I was really nervous, but once I got out there everybody was real friendly," Tate said. "I started to get real comfortable and played my game."
Tate felt his ballhandling and his ability to get separation for his shot helped impress White. He feels his ability to play both guards positions and to play tough defense give him even more to offer the Lions.
Wilson said it was satisfying to see Tate make the most of his chance. He said it is even more rewarding because Tate has changed his mind-set and become a different young man in the past few years. As a junior at New Hope High, Tate averaged more than 13 points and two rebounds and assists per game.
"I watched this kid grow, and through all of the adversity he has went through, it could have been very easy to give up on him," Wilson said. "But I knew he had great parents and I know his heart."
Wilson said Tate excelled at the workout. He said Tate recovered from a slow start and excelled. He said he played well with former Starkville High product Jacolby Mobley, who was a freshman at EMCC this past season, and showcased his dribbling ability, quickness, and shooting range. Thirty minutes in, White came over to Wilson and told him he was going to offer Tate a scholarship.
"I could have just cried right there because it was such a relief," Wilson said. "When you're dealing with adversity, and he has had some, but he has changed so much. He is like a general on the floor. I am going to miss him. He changed for the best."
Tate credits Wilson for his hard work in helping him get exposure. He said the only thing he had to do was go out and play to back up Wilson's persistence. After one year at Columbus High and playing basketball for two years at New Hope High, Tate hoped his work at the basketball goal at his home and at the YMCA in Columbus would keep his game sharp so he would be ready when he secured a chance to shine.
"I kind of had doubts, but I had faith my AAU would get me looks somewhere," Tate said.
It just goes to show double-barreled persistence pays off. Now Tate will get a chance to play for one of the nation's top programs. EMCC went 20-8 this past season, won its fourth-straight NJCAA Region 23 championship, and advanced to the NJCAA Division I tournament in Hutchinson, Kan. EMCC is the first four-time NJCAA Region 23 men's basketball champion since NMCC accomplished the feat from 2003-06.
"That's pretty much what it was, pestering," Wilson said. "With Jason not playing high school basketball, it just threw another challenge in front of me. ... The challenge is to hold somebody's ear because there are good basketball players everywhere, but it was another challenge on me to try to (get Tate noticed) as an AAU coach."