Eight games into the season, Wheaton women’s basketball star Annie Tate is living up to the hype generated by being named a 2021-22 Fourth Team Preseason All-American by D3hoops.com on Oct. 26. On Nov. 22, the CCIW (College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin) named Tate one of two student-athletes of the week based on her role in three Thunder victories against Lakeland University, Chapman University, and the University of Redlands.
“I don’t care if I score 20 points or if I score 2 points, I just care if we win,” Tate, a junior psychology major, said about the pressure that comes with receiving an award. “If I’m named an All-American, that’s awesome and that’s so cool, but if we win and I don’t get named an All-American, that’s fine too.”
Tate, one of three captains on the team alongside seniors Hannah Swider and Taylor Sanders, was also given Honorable Mention All-American last season by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) after being instrumental to the team’s success in scoring and rebounding.
Based on past statistics, position and their team’s overall ranking, 20 players in each of the three NCAA divisions are named preseason all-Americans. Players are nominated by the sports information directors at their individual schools, and are then voted on by a panel of the same directors.
Wheaton started out the season ranked 11th in the country by d3hoops.com. The team has since won seven out of their first eight games, moving into 6th place behind Hope, Whitman, John Carroll, Bowdin, and Wartburg.
For Tate, the honor was unexpected because of her efforts to focus on her game and not get caught up in receiving accolades. She was also recently named the CCIW Student Athlete of the Week for the second time in her collegiate career.
“I was just excited to hear about [the preseason award] and I’m excited about it, but there’s also a lot of work to be done,” said Tate when describing the moment she found out about the award. For Head Women’s Basketball Coach Kent Madsen, the honor did not come as a complete surprise because of Tate’s performance last year.
“Annie’s an outstanding player who has taken on more leadership responsibility and we look forward to seeing how she continues to mature as a basketball player,” Madsen said.
Tate has scored a total of 161 points, averaging 20.1 per game, for the Thunder so far this season, in comparison to her total of 146 (with an average of 18.25) at this point last season.
After health concerns kept her from playing sports in fifth and sixth grade, Tate began playing basketball in seventh grade. She says she fell in love with the fast-paced and high-energy nature of the sport. Commenting on the joy she’s experienced playing for Wheaton, Tate emphasized the tight-knit bond between teammates.
“We have so many talented players and every player on the team has such a fundamental role,” she said. “They’re my best friends, and they’re also my teammates, which is pretty special. We’re like a little family and I feel really grateful to be a part of it.”
Taylor Sanders, a senior psychology major who is a friend of Tate’s and also a captain on the basketball team, described the way that Tate leads and contributes to the team’s success.
“Annie demonstrates her leadership by her actions and the way she works on her own time outside of practice to improve her individual skills, which then improves our team,” Sanders said. “She has a commanding presence on the court and leads our team with that presence.”
Similarly, Hannah Turner, a junior nursing major who is also on the team and a friend of Tate’s, mentioned Tate’s work ethic on and off the court.
“She truly has made a point to show a standard of [hard work] in our program by first holding herself to that standard,” said Turner. “She’s going to rebound and do her best to put her teammates in the best position possible, and she is very good at connecting off the court to check in and make sure that life outside of basketball is going well.”
Though the Women’s Basketball team was able to play their season with restrictive COVID-protocols last year, the experience was entirely different due to the fact that the season ended early and there were no pre-conference games.
Tate said she inherited her competitive spirit from her father, who was also a collegiate athlete and her biggest inspiration and supporter. Although the balance between basketball and school presents its own difficulties at times, the sport has become a mode of release for her everyday stress.
“I never really feel burnt out from basketball because it’s kind of like my break during the day,” Tate said. “When I go to basketball, I get a mental break from school and I try to put all of my to-do lists to the side and just play. It’s like therapy for me in a way, and it’s definitely more of an outlet for me than a burden.”
Crediting her success as a player and improvement throughout college to her teammates, coaches, and family, Tate emphasized the impact that her close community has had on her game.
“I can’t say enough good things about my teammates and my coaches,” she said. “I really don’t think I would be in the position I am without them because they make me look good. It’s easy to be good when you’re on a good team.”