INDIANAPOLIS — Stan Gouard could tell Tate Hall was different from the start.
It was hard to ignore, the University of Indianapolis men’s head basketball coach recalled. When his 6-foot-6 freshman stepped onto the court inside Nicoson Hall during summer workouts last year, the Greenfield-Central graduate didn’t just gain respect with his play, the rookie demanded it with his seasoned maturity.
And Gouard wasn’t the only one that noticed.
Catching the attention of former UIndy star Jordan Loyd, a 6-4 guard in the NBA Development League with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, Hall had people talking the first day, and the chatter carried on into a breakout campaign.
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“Loyd always told me, ‘He’s not like a high school kid in here,'” Gouard said. “(Tate) held his own against guys like Loyd and the other guys who played pro basketball that came back in the summer time and played in our gym.
“After I saw (Tate’s) potential, my expectations for him became a whole lot different than your average freshman.”
The first true freshman starter for the Greyhounds since 2012-13, Hall recalibrated all presumptions this season. The forward started eight of the program’s 27 games, including the final three, and averaged 10.3 points and 4.1 rebounds while shooting 50 percent from the field.
Even as a sixth man off the bench for the team, he impressed, which led him to Great Lakes Valley Conference Freshman of the Year honors and a GLVC All-Freshman team selection.
“He earned that himself. We knew he was really talented coming in,” Gouard said. “The main thing with him is he came in like a sponge. He wanted to learn and he wanted to get better. His pace compared to other freshmen we’ve had in the past was about five or six notches higher.”
Hall is the first Greyhound to be named the league’s Freshman of the Year since Matt Britton in 1996-97, when the award was known as Newcomer of the Year. After his first run through NCAA Division II, Hall has become more than a known commodity, and he is ahead of schedule.
“Coming in I wasn’t really 100 percent sure of how much I was going to play. I didn’t really think about starting, and I definitely played a lot more than I expected,” Hall said. “I didn’t expect to be Freshman of the Year. I’m just really humbled to get that honor, and looking forward to working for something else next year.”
His work ethic secured a starting job faster than anyone projected as Hall cracked Gouard’s lineup on Nov. 13 against Lake Erie, and he held the spot for six of the team’s first seven games. He averaged 10 points per game as a starter early on and scored 20 points at Hillsdale College on Nov. 19, shooting 7 of 11 from the floor and 5 of 8 from 3-point range.
As a standout at Greenfield-Central under head coach Michael Lewis, Hall thrived from the beyond the arc, knocking down a school-record 181 3-pointers in his career and 42 in his final season to surpass John Hamilton’s mark of 179 set in 2000. He finished fourth overall in career points with 1,315, the ninth player in Cougars’ history to eclipse the 1,000-point plateau.
At UIndy, he continued to put up numbers while showcasing his versatility at various positions. He buried 39 treys at 36 percent and was 52 of 62 from the free-throw line at 83 percent.
“I projected him, coming in from high school, maybe getting to that point (as a starter) second semester sophomore year, if not junior year,” Gouard said. “A lot of credit goes to (Michael Lewis) and the coaches in Greenfield. They instilled a lot of great qualities into him before we got him.”
His level-headed approach stems from his parents, Rob and Noelle, the latter who was an Indiana All-Star at Rushville before playing at Indiana University (1984-86).
Joining the collegiate ranks without any delusions of grandeur, Hall learned how to be a leader with the Greenfield-Central Cougars. The team won 20 games his senior, which tied the school record, and secured the program’s first winning season since 2003-04.
At UIndy, the Greyhounds finished 16-12 and 12-6 in the conference for fourth in the East Division and fifth in the 16-team league. Hall posted double figures in 13 games for the Greyhounds. Five were as a starter.
“He’s not your average freshman in college. I remember about five games in, I looked over at him and told him, ‘you’re not a freshman anymore,'” Gouard said. “He wasn’t. Some of the things he did, he wasn’t making freshman plays, he was making sophomore, junior plays.”
For Hall, he was merely doing what he knows best.
“I just wanted to play a lot, play my role and help the team win,” he said. “My senior year (in high school) I was really focused on winning and that kind of translated here. My goal was to come in and spark the team.”
Despite getting moved back to the bench from early December through mid-February, Hall didn’t regress. Instead, he maximized his opportunities.
He averaged 24.8 minutes as a key reserve player and a starter. He played a season-high 36 minutes at Saint Joseph’s when he was reinserted as a starter on Feb. 23 and scored a season-best 24 points with seven rebounds while converting 8 of 15 shot attempts and 5 of 6 free throws.
At practice, he led by example, Gouard remarked, rarely going less than game speed. “He wanted to challenge himself. A number of times at practice, he defended our best player. I think that says a lot for a freshman.”
Hall’s future has the potential to speak for itself, if he continues on his current trend this offseason.
“He’s the face of the program for the next few years. It’s really a great feeling that we have a guy in place for the next three years to be our guy,” Gouard said. “I feel like Tate has a chance to be first-team all-league next year and by the time he’s a junior, he’s a player of the year candidate.
“He has a chance to be an elite player in this league.”
Hall wouldn’t mind reaching those goals at some point, but his primary focus is getting the team back to the NCAA Tournament, a streak that ended after six years. As a fifth seed in the GLVC Tournament this month, the Greyhounds lost to Wisconsin-Parkside 97-82 in the quarterfinals on March 2, ending their postseason aspirations.
“That’s our goal every year to make the NCAA Tournament, and this is actually the first year they haven’t in a few years,” Hall said. “That’s kind of disappointing, but it created motivation for next year to get a higher seed and make it.”
Hall, along with his roommate and UIndy freshman guard Mile Wayer, a Mt. Vernon graduate, give the Greyhounds a solid chance with a young nucleus in place. UIndy didn’t have a single senior on the roster in 2016-17 and had three players named to the GLVC second team in junior Eric Davidson (Hamilton Southeastern), sophomore Jesse Kempson (Heritage Christian) and sophomore Jimmy King (Roncalli). Junior Ajay Lawton (Westfield) was an All-Defensive Team selection.
“We definitely have some work to do. We definitely are young, but I like that we’re a young team because we all hang out off the court. We’re trying to build more chemistry,” Hall said. “This offseason, we’re really going to build a better bond.
“We have some motivation to do better things next year individually and as a team.”