Jae'Sean Tate is finally able to step on the court with his teammates after enduring the recovery process from his season-ending injury.
He ended the 2015-16 season with a shoulder injury and nagging ankle issues as well, but on Tuesday, Buckeyes head coach Thad Matta held a press conference discussing various topics involving the team and in this he mentioned how Tate has been officially cleared for practice per 247sports.com.
He sat out the final seven games, including three match-ups with the highly ranked Michigan State Spartans, and has not been cleared to play full contact since the late February injury.
So this comes as great news for a team who missed the then sophomore's presence at the end of last season in a season where Tate was averaging 11.7 points and 6.4 rebounds-per-game.
It wasn't just his per-game averages that the team surely missed, but his competitive spirit which he brings every time he steps onto the court. If you don't believe my word for it then you must remember when Tate did this:
Yes the guy got passed him and drew the foul, but this is the type of effort and energy they visibly lacked in his absence.
After losing in the second round of the NIT Tournament last year, this 2016-17 squad is looking to improve on this and Tate will be a big part in their quest.
For a program who's roster usually showcases numerous upperclassmen, ahead of this season they only have four. Tate, Marc Loving, Kam Williams and Trevor Thompson are the four veterans and they're pivotal to the amount of success or failure they'll have this year.
Whether people believe Tate is the leader or not, by the looks of it he is by default because of his play. Remember the Jared Sullinger and Aaron Craft led team, while Sullinger was the best player, Craft was the heart and soul for the Buckeyes. There's going to be some rust after Tate's time away, but that's exactly what his role is now.
The Buckeyes forward is known for his relentlessness on both sides of the ball and with a tough preseason schedule ahead of them, they'll need him to use those skills to become the impromptu leader. The preseason schedule has Ohio State matched up with notable programs like Providence, Virginia, UConn and UCLA. Then a Big Ten schedule which is sure to be tough.
Despite coming off this injury, Tate is going to have to have to shrug the rust off quickly because he's got a young group to lead in a year where their schedule shows no time to just cruise. Especially since players like Mickey Mitchell, Austin Grandstaff and others transferred from the school, these new players will have an immediate role with Tate being the one directing. JaQuan Lyle is the unquestioned ball-handler of this team and he's the head of the Buckeye offense this season, but Tate controls everything else. Him being back relieves pressure from other returning guys like Lyle.
Practice begins later this month as schools return back to session, so it's a great feeling for the Buckeyes to finally be welcoming back the engine that will make them go this season.