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If anyone in the state should feel pressure to win, it’s Simeon point guard Jaylon Tate and his teammates.
Being the leader of a top-ranked team chasing its fourth consecutive state title is an enormous task. However, Tate and the Wolverines welcome the challenge.
“After winning state last year, we knew we weren’t done yet,’’ Tate said. ‘‘As seniors we still have one more to go.”
The only pressure Tate feels at times is from coach Robert Smith, who demands the most out of his senior floor general.
“Coach Rob always teases me and tells me all his point guards have won as a senior,” Tate said.
Everything hasn’t always come easy for Tate. After being a varsity starter his freshman and sophomore years at De La Salle, he transferred to Simeon.
Coming off the bench isn’t an easy adjustment for players who are used to being the first option, but it was a decision Tate understood.
“I had to sacrifice my game in order to become a winner,’’ Tate said. ‘‘I learned a lot coming off the bench. I was the man at De La Salle — I could shoot whenever I wanted to. But at Simeon, coach Rob is on me every day and the discipline here is great. I’ve learned a lot from these coaches.”
Jaylon will join teammate and good friend Kendrick Nunn next year at Illinois. Tate has grown close to Illini coach John Groce, mostly because of his honesty.
“[Groce] told me I have to come in and work hard from the start,’’ Tate said. ‘‘He is expecting big things from [me and] Kendrick.”
As a true leader, Tate isn’t afraid to confront others about their mistakes, he just wants his teammates to do things the right way.
“I have to get on everyone, even myself,’’ Tate said. ‘‘When someone messes up I say something to them, but in a way that they will respond positively.”