DRIVEN ON BY A TRAGEDY
When your mum is gone — that never leaves you
JAE’SEAN Tate only has to look at his left leg for a reminder of the day his mother was stabbed to death. Tattooed in black and bold letters on Sydney Kings power forward is “Cori”, a permanent tribute to Tate’s mum, who was murdered in Toledo, Ohio, when he was only 10.
A day rarely passes when he doesn’t recall the moment, as a young boy, when he pleaded with her not to leave his side as she left for a birthday weekend away.
Just days later, Tate went to meet his mother and walked into a haze of police sirens — he was sat down by his grandfather and told his mother had been murdered by her boyfriend.
“When you find out that your mum is gone — that is just something that never leaves you,” Tate, 23, still emotional when retelling the tragedy to The Sunday Telegraph.
“One day mum was there and the next she was gone. It was crazy. It was her birthday weekend and I remember not wanting her to leave.
“I remember saying to mum, ‘don’t go’ and my grandparents literally had to drag me back into the car.
“Mum kept saying, ‘you’ll be fine and I’ll only be away for a few days’.
When Tate and his family hadn’t heard from her, they went over to the house where she was staying. “There were cops everywhere. My grandfather came over to me and said, ‘She is gone’.”
LIFE without his mother hit Tate hard. He spent most of his school years in and out of psychologist clinics. The fear and uncertainty kept Tate from talking about his mother’s death until his last year of college at Ohio State in 2018.
“I just wanted to help people in similar situations by sharing my story, so they knew they weren’t alone,” he said.
“I feel like everything happens for a reason. I lost my mum but I learnt so much and became a better person.
“I miss my mum every day but you also have to look at the positives. I have her name and a picture of a key representing her last name tattooed on my leg, so she is with me all the time. There isn’t a day when I don’t glance down at my leg.”
As the oldest of four kids, Tate also feels compelled to set a strong example for his younger siblings.
With his father playing basketball overseas in Croatia and Japan, Tate moved in with his dad Jermaine shortly after his mother’s death to become “the man of the house”.
“My stepmum also had to work, so it was on me to be a leader and look after my siblings,” he said. “I found it hard and I got into a lot of trouble. I was getting a lot of counselling to cope with mum’s death.”
Tate played basketball and football to release some of the anger.
“It took me a couple of years to get adjusted. But I’m blessed because where I come from — a lot of people don’t make it as far as I have.
“That is especially the case with everything that is going on in the States right now with gun violence.
“It is a really messed up situation. I think there has to be b a line li b between protecting yourself and protecting everyone else.
“I feel a lot safer in Australia, put it that way. It is why you have to be grateful for the time you are here.”
IN his short time in Sydney, Tate has impressed for the Kings, highlighted by 16 points and 7 rebounds in last weekend’s 22-point win over Adelaide. But he concedes he could have been a Brisbane Bullet this season.
“The Bullets were keen, but I felt like Sydney really wanted me,” he said. “They blew up my phone with calls while I was playing in Belgium (with the Antwerp Giants).
“I was also getting calls from Bogut saying, ‘let’s get this done’.
“It gave me that college offer kind of feel when you have teams sending you emails and scouting you. Plus, it was exciting to join a team with a new coaching staff. I wanted to be a part of that.
“I always try and look at the glass being half full — that is what mum would have wanted.”
Jae’Sean Tate as a brighteyed toddler (far left), the tattoo on his leg featuring his mother’s name, Cori (left); and playing for the Sydney Kings.