After every Ohio State basketball game, both head coaches will meet with reporters for a postgame press conference.
Almost without fail, every time an opposing coach talks about the Buckeyes, they will spend time mentioning how much they appreciate the play of senior forward Jae’Sean Tate.
It doesn’t matter how the game turned out or how many points Tate scored. They simply enjoy the way he plays the game, and the level at which his game is being played right now.
And when Holtmann talks to opposing coaches, they say the same thing to him as well.
“They’re saying he’s playing the best he’s ever played. He does so much for his team,” Holtmann said.
Of course, Holtmann doesn’t need other coaches to tell him what he already knows. He sees it every day in practice and every time the Buckeyes take the court in a game.
However, there is one moment in particular that Holtmann looks back on to speak to Tate the person and the player.
Late in the game against Illinois a little over a week ago, Keita Bates-Diop was capping a huge night in a win over the Illini. Tate, meanwhile, had scored 11 points with just seven field goal attempts in his 33 minutes of play.
Tate couldn’t have been happier, however, and that’s one of the reasons why Holtmann feels so strongly about him.
“I love him. I love him. Obviously, I love all of our guys, but I just can’t say enough,” Holtmann said. “Listen, if this doesn’t encapsulate who Jae’Sean Tate is, Keita Bates-Diop has 35 the other night against Illinois, there’s a clip at the end of the game where Jae’Sean Tate is bearhugging him with a huge grin on his face.
“And I don’t know what J.T. had in that game in terms of points. If that doesn’t speak to who that young man is and what he really cares about. All he cares about winning. He’s so excited that his teammate had the kind of night he had.”
Without that kind of selflessness, teams have no chance. Yes, talent is important, and so is coaching. If the players aren’t in it for each other, however, then there’s no point in even competing because they’ve already lost.
Tate has said in the last month or two that he wants to cap his four years at Ohio State with a trophy, and so far this season he is doing what he can to make it happen.
And coaches will always love that kind of attitude, which is why that moment during the Illinois game struck such a chord with Holtmann.
“In the day and age where he could maybe be a little envious of Keita busting onto the scene, I haven’t caught wind of that one time. Not one time,” he said. “Now maybe he’s going back to his apartment saying, ‘Man, I wish Coach would run more stuff for me.’ But I don’t think he is. I think he’s completely happy. That’s who he is.
“It was such a genuine moment and said so much about Jae’Sean and what he cares about. All he cares about is winning and he really loves the fact that his teammate had such a big night. It was just another visible reminder to me of who he is.”