Regarded by many as the top basketball player in the state of Ohio, Jae'Sean Tate consistently plays like it. With a motor that never stops, and an everlasting urge to attack the basket, Tate is one of several weapons Thad Matta has coming in for the class of 2014. Tate, a 6'4 small forward from nearby Pickerington High School Central, is a consensus four-star prospect, and has Buckeye basketball blood running through him. Tate's father, Jermaine, lettered with Ohio State in 1996, before moving on to the University of Cincinnati for his final two seasons of college basketball.
On Wednesday afternoon, Tate's high school team joined the Columbus City-League's Walnut Ridge for an open gym session, and the Ohio State commit did not disappoint. Unstoppable on the drive, the 6'4 forward was mightily efficient around the basket, scoring on the majority of his attempts. While his perimeter shooting is still a work in progress, Tate knocked down a pair of threes, each coming off the dribble. Noted for his aggressiveness on the glass, Tate went to work on the boards, snatching rebounds and quickly getting down floor for transition opportunities.
While fellow Ohio State commit D'Angelo Russell is more of a finesse guard with lots of flash, Tate is an efficient bulldog, who is willing to lower his shoulder and punish opposing defenders. Always seeming to play with a chip on his shoulder, it is Tate's criticisms that are going to drive him in his final year of high school ball and into collegiate action. Throughout the EYBL circuit this past summer, Tate again and again outperformed higher ranked competition, and was on a mission to prove himself at the highest level. A year away from being on the biggest stage of his young career, Tate is the subject of criticisms from people all around the basketball community. Some feel the forward is too small for his position, and lacks the perimeter skills to succeed at the next level. However, these criticisms are only motivation for the Ohio State commit.
"I mean, people have been doubting me my whole life, and just look what I have accomplished," Tate said. "I respect those who say that because it just gives me even more motivation to prove them wrong."
Let's now transition to the rest of the local hoopers participating in open gym, and highlight Wednesday's top performers.
Tarik Wright (6'4 SF, Walnut Ridge / 2016):
Really coming into his own as of late, Walnut Ridge's Wright had himself another impressive performance on Wednesday. The 6'4 forward has a very thick build, and uses that to his advantage when shielding defenders on drives to the basket. The sophomore's ball-handling skills are improving, and Wright uses a hesitation crossover to create separation to penetrate with either hand. In addition to his work around the rim, Wright has proven to be a dependable shooter from deep when left open, adding another element to an impressive offensive skill set. Coach Jason Bates and the Scots will rely heavily on Wright, senior Dymiere Finch, and sophomore forward Malik Harrison, who is Walnut Ridge's starting varsity quarterback.
Rodney Culver (6'4 SG, Pickerington Central / 2015):
Improving leaps and bounds since the end of last season, Pickerington Central's Culver is likely to be one of the Ohio Capital Conference's most surprising players in 2013-'14. Culver is an incredible athlete, whose perimeter skills have continued to improve, along with his overall confidence on the floor. Playing for the Ohio Hoopsters in the AAU season, Culver really elevated his stock with a string of several impressive outputs in the month of July. Receiving sporadic playing time as a sophomore, the Tigers will likely look for Culver to contribute off the bench on a guard-heavy team. With a player of Culver's caliber coming off the pine, the Tigers should have no issues with depth this season.
Jaylyn Watkins (6' SG, Walnut Ridge / 2015):
One of Ridge's hardest working players, Watkins is primed for a big time junior season. Coming into his first season of high school ball, Watkins' skill level has far surpassed players under similar circumstances. The lefty has quick speed and good athleticism to go along with a knack for creating his own shot off the dribble. Watkins is improving his mid-range game, and showed an ability to finish with his off hand in traffic on Wednesday. Coach Bates noted Watkins as a player that is easy to coach, which should only bode well for the combo-guard's future.
Conner Kern (6'3 SG, Pickerington Central / 2014):
Committed to Arkansas State, Kern is one of Central Ohio's most deadly shooters. The 6'3 guard can heat up in a hurry, and is most effective shooting in transition. On Wednesday, Kern spotted up along the left wing, and hit with consistency, both in the half court and full court sets. Kern is also able to attack the rim with underrated quickness, and can hit from the mid-range area with a hand in his face. The senior duo of Tate and Kern will be relied upon to return Pickerington Central to the state playoffs, two years removed from a state championship.
Dymiere Finch (6'2 PG, Walnut Ridge / 2014):
One of the top point guard in the City-League, Finch has shown steady improvement in the offseason. The 6'2 guard plays with lots of flash, and is a crafty finisher when he gets into the lane. Finch has good court vision, and is an unselfish player that can score when he needs to. While slashing into the lane has never been too difficult of a task for the senior, Finch has been hard at work to improve his perimeter shooting, which at this point, remains his greatest weakness. One of the few seniors on Walnut Ridge's roster with quality experience, Coach Bates will rely on his flashy point guard to lead the Scots to a district championship, something they haven't done since 1971.
Andre Bradley (5'10 PG, Pickerington Central / 2015):
One of several point guards on the Pickerington Central roster, Bradley was the most impressive on Wednesday. Bradley has a thick build, and plays with a level of physicality that many guards have problems adjusting to. The senior was effective in running the offense, sharing the ball amongst an array of offensive weapons. With Kern and Culver spotted up on the perimeter, driving lanes were open for Bradley, and the senior guard executed. With Pickerington North transfer Dajon Moore joining the stable of guards, and returning starter DJ Tyree back for his sophomore season, guard play will be one of the Tigers' greatest strengths in 2013-'14.
Kalib Younger (6'2 SG, Walnut Ridge / 2016):
Younger is one of several talented sophomores on a young Scots roster. The 6'2 combo-guard is an active defender, using good foot speed to stay in front of the opposing ball-handler. On offense, Younger is still coming along in terms of slashing, but the sophomore has shown an ability to hit from the perimeter, something the Scots will need a lot this season. Look for Younger to battle for the starting shooting guard position as Walnut Ridge enters a promising 2013-'14 campaign.
Marcellus Taylor (6'6 PF, Walnut Ridge / 2014):
One thing Walnut Ridge has always been known for is the size of the Scots front line. Alongside 6'8 senior center Tyrone Johnson, Ridge will rely on the contributions of the 6'6 Taylor this upcoming season. On Wednesday, Taylor showed an ability to get up and down the floor rather quickly, while also showcasing a soft touch around the basket. The senior is an above-average athlete, and will be relied upon for his rebounding and shot-altering abilities, given his long wingspan. Another late bloomer, look for Taylor to be an integral part of the Scots in 2013-'14.
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- Michigan P/LB Ivan Oraha is visiting Ohio State for this weekend's Iowa game.
- Ohio State among the latest schools to express interest in 2016 Cleveland, OH ATH/WR Jordan Overton.