For Adrian Nelson and Jalen Tate, the hope of having another shot to participate in March Madness offers a bit of solace.

But it doesn't completely take away the pain the former Pickerington Central standouts are experiencing as a result of the NCAA canceling the remainder of the winter postseason -- as well as the spring season -- because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

This winter, Nelson and Tate helped the Northern Kentucky men's basketball team qualify for the NCAA tournament for the third time in four seasons.

According to Nelson, one of the toughest parts is what was taken away from teammates such as Dantez Walton and Tyler Sharpe, senior starters who averaged 16.1 and 15.1 points, respectively.

"It's been pretty hard, you know, not just for me, but I feel bad for the seniors who don't get another chance at this college basketball life forever due to an unfortunate event," said Nelson, a 2018 Central graduate. "We work hard all year long just to get to this moment and it was cut short and it hurts."

Northern Kentucky, in just its fourth season competing in Division I, won its third Horizon League tournament championship.

Tate and Nelson both started in an 80-69 victory over Green Bay on March 9 in a semifinal of the league tournament in Indianapolis, with Tate posting 23 points and six rebounds and Nelson adding four points and four rebounds.

The next day, the Norse beat UIC 71-62 in the championship game to earn the Horizon League's automatic NCAA tournament bid and finish 23-9. Tate, a 6-foot-6 guard, had 14 points and was named league tournament MVP.

"We've really just stayed consistent with what we know how to be good at," said Tate, a 2016 Central graduate. "We actually have a great group of guys that can put the ball in the basket."

Tate plans to graduate this spring with a degree in organizational leadership with a minor in sports business. With one season of eligibility remaining, he announced April 10 that he has committed to Arkansas as a graduate transfer.

Tate's brother, Jae'Sean, played for Central and Ohio State, while his sister Jada played for Central and competes for Tiffin and his sister Jocelyn recently completed her junior season with the Tigers.

Tate, who competed as a redshirt junior this winter after having his freshman season end after only eight games because of a broken hand, closed his prep career with 1,139 points. As a senior, he averaged 17.2 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists and was second-team all-district as the Tigers won their fourth Division I district title in five seasons.

In the 2016-17 season, Northern Kentucky finished 24-11 and lost to eventual regional runner-up Kentucky 79-70 in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Tate started 31 games as a redshirt freshman in the 2017-18 season, averaging 5.7 points as the Norse went 22-10 but lost in a quarterfinal of the Horizon League tournament before falling in the first round of the NIT.

In the 2018-19 season, with Nelson among the team's newcomers, Northern Kentucky beat Wright State 77-66 in the Horizon League championship game and received a No. 14 seed for the NCAA tournament. The Norse lost to eventual national runner-up Texas Tech 72-57 in the first round to finish 26-9.

Tate missed 10 games this season with a broken left hand but averaged 13.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists, while Nelson, a 6-7 sophomore forward, started three games and averaged 4.6 points.

"I was in first grade and he was in preschool (when we first met)," Tate said of Nelson. "We've been best buds."

Nelson, who originally had committed to Detroit Mercy, averaged 2.8 points for the Norse as a freshman while seeing action in 30 games. He then underwent offseason knee surgery that limited him at the beginning of this season.

"My takeaways from this experience this year is that you have to come prepared every day because your team is counting on you to be that guy when the time comes in the game," said Nelson, who helped Central reach back-to-back state semifinals, losing to Cincinnati Moeller 57-47 in 2017 and Solon 82-78 in 2018. "Basketball brings your team together close like a family. It's a great brotherhood and relationships are strengthened every day.

"I've made a lot of progress (with my injury recovery). Last year, it was more of learning the ropes for college, learning how people are different athletically and learning my role and accepting it. This year, I just developed my game all-around so that next year I can expand more on the offensive side of things."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek