BBL LOGO 568Isaiah Tate’s brief spell with Surrey United has brought immediate success, having inspired his new side to a season sweep over the Birmingham Knights.

The American has made a promising start to life in the BBL with a point shy of 100 scored in his first four games. However, he’s not aiming to be complacent and is already targeting areas to strengthen.

“I have been pleased with my impact so far, but there is always room to improve as a player and team-mate,” said Tate. “I look forward to that challenge, starting with cutting down on my turnovers whilst looking to get more assists and continuing to stay on the boards as we are one of the smaller teams in this league.”

Tate has been a key figure for Surrey since his arrival, displaying a fierce ability to attack the basket at will. And the 24-year-old hasn’t been fazed by the additional responsibility of covering multiple positions for his team.

He said: “I am a team player and look to help a team I am on any way I can and however my coach wants me to. The fact that I happen to be versatile is something that is good to exploit especially on a team where I can work on getting better shots for my team-mates and helping to run offense better. Our execution and rhythm is starting to improve and it will only get better. I’m excited for what is to come.”

Jack Majewski’s side are definitely on the rise with four wins from their last six and Tate’s fellow American Brandon McGill has been another major factor.

He’s now averaging 20+ ppg after a career-high 37 points in Sunday’s BBL TV clash against the Knights and McGill also had a big part to play in the arrival of his compatriot. The pair both hail from Maryland in the US and played together at DeMartha Catholic High School.

Speaking on the reunion, Tate said: “It’s a lot of fun to be back playing with him. We still have an on-court chemistry that is only gained through years of knowing someone on and off the court. It’s indispensable.”

He added: “Brandon (BJ) had a big influence on me joining the team, it was because of him that I knew that there was an opportunity to come aboard. The opportunity for us to play together at the pro level with a childhood friend is something no one would pass up in my eyes. ”

For Tate, the chance at Surrey presents a welcome return to action having been without a team since the end of last season. Nothing came about from a trial in Iceland earlier in the season and he has been eagerly awaiting his chance to continue his basketball career.

The 6’4″ guard played for Porvoon Tamro in the Finnish first division last year, in what was his first season as a pro. He averaged 18.5 points per game after accumulating 573 points in 31 games whilst adding an average of 5.5 rebounds.

“My first season as a pro was pretty successful,” declares Tate. “I was able to hit the ground running immediately and start my pro career off on a positive note while adjusting to life in Europe and on my own for the first time.”

Whilst in Finland, Tate played alongside Jerrah Young, formerly of the Cheshire Jets and the American passed on his advice about what to expect from the BBL.

“(He) told me how the play was over here compared to Finland. In my opinion, he was pretty accurate. The talent level is slightly better mostly because, here in the BBL, there are older, more mature players and the game play is a bit more physical. I like the competition so far.”

Tate had originally expected to join the BBL back at the start of last season after a ‘verbal agreement’ was in place with Cheshire before the team’s growing off-court problems prompted the need for a contingency plan.

He explained: “Towards the end of the (2012) summer, I believe Cheshire was having some issues on the business side of the organization with owners and coaches to some extent. At that point I wasn’t sure if they were going to be prepared for the upcoming season and was advised to find a possible back up move for the season in case the worst came.”

His journey has eventually led him to England and the American is making the most of his opportunity across the pond.

Before his arrival, Surrey had just one win to their name in 21 games, but such a record didn’t deter Tate. In fact, the situation proved to be an enticing prospect.

“I definitely saw the challenge before coming out here with joining a team with minimal wins. I thought that it was a challenge that could be accomplished given that BJ was by himself as an import American for most of the season while teams generally have 3.”

Majewski wisely strengthened his team, bringing in Tate at an opportune moment ahead of three crunch meetings with fellow strugglers, Birmingham. His latest recruit made an instant impact with a 24-point debut before an equally impressive 18-15 double-double a few weeks later.

Tate was again in fine form last Sunday, racking up 32 points as Surrey claimed their fourth win of the season and third over the Knights in as many weeks.

“Sweeping a team in a season series isn’t an easy task, regardless of whether it’s the best or worst team in the league,” he said. “It makes it even better that we were technically the underdogs in the situation. Birmingham is a team that is getting better and I’m sure they will be heard from before the end of the season.”

He added: “The wins were great, but in each game we tried to work on different things and improve as a team which is important.”

Despite head coach Majewski further strengthening his squad with the recent addition of Nick Freer, the United team are still predominantly youthful. And Tate believes that the overall experiences the younger players have endured this season will stand them in good stead for the future.

He said: “Its always a great experience to start young. Even if they are not playing as much as they may want to right now, they are getting to learn and develop from some great leaders and players on a daily basis and get to go up against us in practice. As they get older they will see that this early start will in the end help their growth and development as players. I can’t wait to see them grow.”

As far as the rest of the season is concerned, Tate sees no reason why Surrey cannot continue their rapid progression and harbours hopes of reaching the post-season whilst the possibility remains mathematically achievable.

“Making the playoffs is always the goal in any season and there is a very slim chance that we can squeeze in, but it is a possibility still at this point. We are stressing trying to get as many wins as possible to end the season on a high note and start moving forward
into the next season, its always good to finish strong regardless of the start.”

Whether Tate will be there at the start of next season remains to be seen, but the 24-year-old doesn’t rule out a full-length season in the BBL.

“I would definitely consider having a go at a full season here in the UK in the future. It’s always good to be able to come to a club in August/September and build with the team in preparation for a full season of basketball. It’s more stable.”


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