Rockets rookie Jae’Sean Tate knows all about grind

In an one-on-one interview, he shares his journey to the NBA, overcoming adversity and a love for coffee

HOUSTON – A broken finger, an earthquake and the COVID-19 pandemic: three roadblocks in back-to-back-to-back seasons for Houston Rockets forward Jae’Sean Tate held the talented player out of the NBA.

After going undrafted in 2018, Tate spent the season in Belgium, where an Ohio kid who had never left his home state for more than two weeks got to travel to 18 countries in a year. He said he loved the experience.

The next season, after an Earthquake slowed his NBA Summer League ascent, Tate made a decision to play in the NBL in Australia. That year, the league was welcoming star high school players R.J. Hampton and LaMelo Ball, drawing scouts.

With the short season, Tate could put himself on the map, then get back to the U.S. That’s exactly what happened. Tate made First-Team All-NBL, then return to the States. But, he was slowed again by COVID-19.

His fourth try worked: Tate signed a two-year contract with the Rockets before the 2020-21 season.

Tate more than lived up to his contract, leading the Rockets in games played, games started, and a host of other stats. The rookie played well enough to lead the team in on-off, a stat that determines impact for when a player is on the court vs. off the court. Tate’s +8.6 was the best on the team, meaning the Rockets are 8.6 points better with Tate on the court.

He finished the season averaging 11.3 points per game, 5.3 rebounds per game and 2.5 assists per game.

Tate said his offensive numbers, coupled with his success on his defensive responsibilities make him viable for First Team All-Rookie.

“I think I’m the best rookie defender,” said Tate. “And I say that with confidence.”

To add some punch to his campaign, Tate worked with Houston coffee shop owner David Buehrer, who helped Tate come up with the idea of a signature coffee. Tate picked up drinking coffee in Belgium.

“I started out with iced caramel lattes,” said Tate. “But David is trying to get me more into it.”

Now, Tate drinks a cup in the morning on game days and another half-cup before the game. On a tough day, he’ll finish that second cup at halftime.

The Jae’Sean Tate Blend comes with a purpose. A portion of the sales from Tate’s coffee go to the Be a 9th Wonder Foundation, a Houston-based organization led by former basketball player Remi Yusuf.

“We do free skill development clinics for kids with special needs,” said Yusuf.

Tate loved the idea of immediately getting into helping a local organization, and partnered with local artist Dual Streets to create a design for the coffee bag.

“My time in Houston has been pretty great,” said Tate. “The city has been really good with supporting me.”

Despite the 17-win season, Tate says he’s felt love from the Houston fans. Now, the next step is personal improvement and team improvement.

“I’m not satisfied,” said Tate. “I always knew I could be in this position, and I’m happy with the personal season that I had, but I’ve never been on a losing team. I don’t want to continue to be on a losing team.”

“If you look at everyone on our roster, everybody has something to prove. Everybody has either been a misfit or been in a situation where they’re trying to prove someone wrong or prove themselves, and I think that hunger and that chip is going to make us work even harder,” said Tate.

“I think we can get there,” he said.

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Murrow and Emmy award-winning sports anchor & reporter. Avid traveler, mediocre golfer. Loves good food, good friends and southern rap.