On Wednesday, Telenet Giants Antwerp won the first leg of the Final 16 in the Champions League. On Sunday will the final of the Orange Cup be on the menu for Roel Moors and his team. One of the team is Jae’Sean Tate: Mister Energy for the Antwerp Giants. And he is clear: “This year is ours”.
In between two trainings, the 23 year old American is prepared to make time for an interview on how Antwerp and the Giants changed his life. “I thought that Belgium was in Germany. Paris Lee had de wrong flag on his Instagram. It shows how Americans betray on Europe.”
How is life going on for you in Antwerp, Jae’Sean?
“I was stressed before I came here. I never went out of Ohio. I went there to school, played basketball. Now it is the first time I’m away from home and for so long. Coming to Antwerp didn’t really was a culture shock. Most of people speak English, there are a lot of American stores and nice places. And how I love your fries! I still want to learn taking the tram. Now, I often use the Bird scooters in town. They go fast. As fast as my highlights!” (laughs)
Did you already know things about the city and the club before you came to Antwerp?
“Nothing. I can be as short as that! (laughs)I thought that Belgium was in Germany. In the States, schools might make an effort to learn us the maps. I remember Paris Lee saying that he had the wrong flag on his Instagram. I didn’t know that people spoke English here, what I had to eat, I even thought that Belgians drove on the wrong side of the road! (laughs) Or how Americans betray on Europe.”
Do you feel homesick?
“No, I felt I was ready for an adventure. I wanted to see the world and play basketball. Of course I miss home, but I think that I am doing very good for being my first time so far away from home. Above all, I miss my girlfriend. The last four years we were never from each other’s side and now we see each other three weeks in a year. But we went through the tough part. My team mates as the whole Giants organization really welcomed me positively. It made it already a bit easier.”
Life for you was not as simple as it should. You lost your mother when you were very young.
“It was a really hard for me. My father played overseas at the time, so I always was with her. I think that losing her made me the man I am today. I think I would not think about playing basketball or being successful in the things I do now. When they call my name at a game and then I come on the court, I always look up to the sky and then I know that she is looking at me. I try to live like she raised me.”
How did it change you as a person?
“That is difficult. In Toledo, where I grew up, sometimes I got into trouble. I was not the best in the class room, nor outside the class room. I know that my mother did her very best to take care of me and my siblings. Maybe, I did not choose for basketball. I came when I moved with my father to Columbus. I studied sports management. I wanted to get to know all aspects of the life of athletes.”
Now you are playing overseas. How is that?
“It is definitely different. There are positive and negative things. In the Staes, my friends and family could come see my games in person. Now do they also want it, but they could not because they have to work. They see our Champions League games on YouTube. That is the only negative thing I can think about. But I love playing overseas. It is like college basketball but with a shorter shot clock. We play against former NBA players, players who are drafted or they are on their way to the NBA. Also a lot of collegian players play here.”
You already played several games here in your rookie year. Do you have one that you are really proud of?
“Our home game against Hapoel Jerusalem. I will keep that forever in my mind. I tried to dunk on Amar’e Stoudemire, but the ball did not go in! Nobody gave us a chance, but look now. We are up to do big things. We already wrote history so why not looking further than Final 16 in the Champions League? We showed as a team that we could compete with the three best teams in competition. We commanded respect. Teams do not come to Antwerp anymore ‘just for a citytrip’. We showed it again last Wednesday.”
Can you go through to the next round in the Champions League?
“We are up to do big things. We cannot let Murcia come back in the game like Wednesday in the second half. We have to control the pace of the game and be consistent on defense.”
Where is the focus on now? The cup final or the Champions League?
“Now it is on tomorrow. Game per game. I don’t have any stress for the final. We are ready for it. We got to do what we got to do. Simple. As a team, you work for this a whole year. Tomorrow it is the cup final and soon it are the play-offs. And there also we are going to make it to the Finals. This will be the year of Antwerp Giants. You can quote that! We have to readjust something against Ostend.”
You are already know the rivalry between both teams.
“I am only here for several months, but I am already into the rivalry. We have the possibility to finally beat them in the cup and take our first prize of the season. This is why we play basketball; to show us to the world, to the fans and to give everything for the team for standing on the highest stage.”
You are also very present in the games. You show a lot of energy. Like the Mister Energy of the club.
(laughs) “That has always been my strength. You always need someone like that on the team. Now, that role is on me. My only interest is winning. No one will remember the player with 35 points per game but never won prizes. Only the champions will be remembered and I want to be one.”
Do you have somebody you look up to?
(thinks deeply) “I do not have one real idol, but several. I want some characteristics from my father, my grandfather and LeBron.”
Is LeBron the player you look up to?
“He is the GOAT. What he does, is just insane. It always looks so easy for him. James is the best all-round player. Wherever he goes, he changes the team dynamic. I do not want to be totally as him, but I want him to be my inspiration for my games. His shot, drives, dunks… I strive to become as versatile as he is. But I am still young. My best years are still to come.”
When will you be proud in life?
“I will be proud when… Damn, that is a tough question! I think I will be proud when I know that I gave everything for my sport. That I had a good career and that I can be a man on and off the court where my wife and kids can be proud of.”
Maybe in Antwerp?
“You never know. Life… God leads it in mysterious ways.”