Sam Thompson sat back in his chair and smiled as the question was asked to his teammate sitting to his left, Jae'Sean Tate.
"Jae'Sean, you're kind of becoming a fan favorite, what do you think of that?" a reporter asked Tate following Ohio State's 81-57 blowout win over Nebraska.
Tate, the somewhat soft-spoken freshman forward from nearby Pickerington, thought for a moment before answering as Thompson fought back his trademark smile.
"I get a little love," Tate remarked, "but I don't really listen to it."
That shouldn't really come as a surprise, though, because coming out of high school there were some who doubted Tate's ability to be able to compete in the Big Ten. He is a 6-foot-9 power forward trapped inside a 6-foot-4 body.
But Tate didn't listen to those critics, either. And he's been proving people wrong ever since his first game in a Buckeyes' uniform.
"He’s that guy that has a mentality of saying there’s not a selfish bone in him," Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said.
It's that reason why Buckeye fans have marveled over Tate's impact on this year's team as just a freshman. His fellow classmate D'Angelo Russell gets a lot of the publicity, but Tate's impact on this Ohio State team is almost equally as important.
He provides the Buckeyes with a spark and instant energy whenever he's in the game. Whether it's scoring, rebounding or defending, Tate is relentless in what he does.
“I just think that just comes from heart. I’ve got pride and I take it personal and I like a challenge," Tate said. "When people say that I look at it as a challenge and not as a bad thing. I just go out there and play hard."
The Cornhuskers were the latest team to find out about Tate. Sure, you can watch him on film and try to prepare to face him, but it's hard to replicate someone who plays that hard all the time.
And against Nebraska, Tate scored a career-high 22 points and grabbed seven rebounds. He made eight of his nine attempts from the field.
"He takes contact well, he's a bit of a truck in there and takes contact well and still finishes," Huskers coach Tim Miles said. "Even though he doesn't have a huge height advantage, he's so strong and he's very athletic. He's able to deliver contact as much as take contact and finish shots."
Ohio State goes as Russell goes. But if Tate can consistently be that No. 2 man for the Buckeyes, they have a chance to make a run in March.
"Probably a little bit surprised with how he’s played, just being a freshman and everything, but when you factor in just his element of toughness and his competitive spirit good things are probably going to happen," Matta said. "You hope he is now finding his groove in terms of what he is capable of doing.”