Chicago De La Salle is one of the best teams in Illinois. With future Illini Mike Shaw and fellow senior Dre Henley providing leadership for sophomores Jaylon Tate, Alex Foster and Alvin Ellis, the Meteors boast five college prospects in their starting lineup. Tate is learning to fuel the engine from his point guard spot.
"We're doing pretty good. We lost two games, but we're doing pretty good so far. We had some rough times at the beginning of the year, but we're trying to get our chemistry together and gel as a team.
"We're just getting ready for playoffs to start. We've got two good senior leaders in Dre Henley and Mike Shaw. The young guys step up to try to help our seniors out."
Tate is humble enough to realize he has much to learn. Besides his head coach Tom White and his staff, he is also getting help from Shaw.
"I'm just going day by day, getting better. I'm always getting advice from Mike and the coaches, and I'm working hard."
As Illini fans are aware, it can be difficult to find a true point guard, but Tate is developing into a good one.
"I've been playing point guard all my life. It's getting easier; our team chemistry is getting better. I know when to get people the ball, when not to give them the ball. And I know when to take my shot."
Good point guards understand those options and put teammates ahead of self. Tate recognizes that.
"I can really penetrate and get to the basket. I can get my teammates open, and I can score when I need to score. I play good defense."
The 6'-2" Tate gained experience off the bench last year as a freshman, but he was riddled with self-doubt on the court. Those experiences are helping him now.
"My coaches talked to me before the season started. They really wanted to build my confidence up. They gave me confidence I can control the team this year. And also run an offense."
There are skills he wants to improve in the next couple years.
"Get my jumpshot better and feel more comfortable on the team as far as defense and offense and controlling things."
Besides Illinois, Tate says he is hearing from a number of other college programs.
"I'm getting looks from Purdue, Indiana, Xavier, Florida, Michigan and Fairfield."
Asked at halftime of the Purdue game at the Assembly Hall, Tate said he liked what he saw.
"It is a great atmosphere. They have great fans and great alumni. I am really enjoying that."
The Illinois coaching staff has also made a good impression on him.
"I have had a lot of contact with them. I talk to Jerrence (Howard) a lot. I like Bruce Weber as a coach. I think he is a really good coach. I like how they think defense first. They let their guys hoop and make a lot of plays."
Tate was asked whether his teammate Shaw attending Illinois is a factor in its favor.
"Only time will tell. As of right now, I am really looking at Illinois. I like it. I am really taking my time and looking at each school."
Tate also had good things to say about his teammates and their play this season.
"Alvin Ellis is coming along good. We didn't think he was gonna play this well. He's really played good and has stepped up in big games.
"Alex Foster has always been a great player. He always plays hard; he's just a tough player. He really helps us out there on the court too.
"Mike (Shaw) is the toughest player on our team. He battles through so many injuries. He steps up every night. He tells us to come in and always play hard. He sets a good example for everyone."
Tate has great teachers. The Illini likely will continue to be heavily involved in his recruitment.