Tate the Great
RMU forward finds time to balance academics and athletics
May 1, 2014
Growing up in the quaint coastal town of New Bern, North Carolina, Aaron Tate was exposed to the gearhead culture from a young age. But after dedicating most of his life to the game of basketball, he didn’t have time to focus on his automotive hobby.
So he plans on turning his passion for cars into a career upon graduating from Robert Morris University.
“When I was growing up, I used to hang around a lot of people who liked to work on cars, so I started liking cars. I decided to go into mechanical engineering because that’s what I like,” said Tate, a forward on the RMU basketball team. “When I get out of school, I want to work on cars.”
During his senior year at West Craven High School in nearby Vanceboro, Tate averaged 15.3 points per game and originally committed to play for Donnie Tyndall at Morehead State.
But once Tyndall accepted a head coaching position at Southern Mississippi in April 2012, Tate withdrew his letter of intent, instead opting to play for Dodge City Community College in Kansas, 1,500 miles away from his hometown.
“With Aaron coming out of high school, he signed with Morehead State and it was a really late deal with us and I knew his AAU coach a little bit and I trusted him. I didn’t see any tape on Aaron but he told me what he was, he’s an undersized forward that does things the right way and plays hard,” said Kyle Campbell, Tate’s coach at Dodge City. “Those are the kind of kids we want. It translated well because that’s what he did for us.”
After averaging 10.4 points and 6.8 boards per game, Tate drew interest from a handful of Division I programs including Iona, Old Dominion, and Mount St. Mary’s, but ultimately chose Robert Morris because of academics.
“When I came to this school, it seemed like a pretty nice place to be as far as the coaches [are concerned]. I like their coaching style and when I saw them play Kentucky I was like ‘wow, what is going on with that?’ I just liked how hard they played and I felt like that would just be a perfect fit for me,” the sophomore said. “When I came here and I found out that they had mechanical engineering I was like ‘yeah, this is probably where I need to be because they have a major that I actually want to do.’”
In his first full season with the Colonials, Tate started 12 games and was second on the team in rebounding, while finding time to take classes such as Calculus with Analytic Geometry and Chemistry I.
“I guess you could say that [it’s rare for an athlete be an engineering major] because it seems like every time I tell somebody that I play DI basketball, but that I’m also a mechanical engineer, they seem surprised that I’m actually doing such a difficult major while I’m playing basketball.”
Though he’s typically a very reserved individual, teammate Kavon Stewart said on the hardwood, the six-foot-five forward is anything but.
“Aaron is very quiet, but on this court you wouldn’t even notice that,” said Stewart, a freshman. “I know how hard he works and how much time he puts in and everything. He makes sure he gets the job done.”
RMU head coach Andy Toole agreed.
“I think Aaron’s a guy who is really dedicated to not only his academics, but also to his athletics. I think he knows what he wants to do, he’s determined to get it done and I think that just speaks to his personality, his character, his understanding of who he is,” he said. “He does a really good job of balancing both sides of his life and I think you see that hard work and determination show when he’s on the court.”
Even though it can sometimes be difficult to juggle both his academics and athletics, Tate has been able to do both.
But not without a little help.
“They [my professors] are really understanding about how I have to play basketball, so they actually give me extra time to do my work and catch up,” he said. “Sometimes it gets rough, but on the other hand I know that I have a lot of people who are trying to help me out.”