What’s next for Emoni Bates, a high-profile basketball recruit whose future was now in limbo

What’s next for Emoni Bates, a high-profile basketball recruit whose future was now in limbo

Emoni Bates was one of the top high school prospects in the country and was called “the next Kevin Durant”.

Bates has really fallen in the last two years since receiving those great awards and projections. His lowest point may have been last weekend, when he was arrested on weapons charges following a traffic stop and suspended from his college team at Eastern Michigan.

Bates was driving a borrowed car and did not own the firearm, a firearm, his lawyer claimed at a hearing the day after the arrest. A court date has been set for October 6 and the matter will play out in the judicial system.

Bates could be found not guilty and be able to return to basketball at EMU or, if convicted, he might not even wear a jersey or play a single game this college season. For anyone lucky enough to see Bates play as a young prospect when he first hit the basketball scene, it’s hard to believe that this is where he is at 18 years old.

He has been on a road of questionable decisions, both on and off the basketball court, amid intense media coverage. Arguably, the hype contributed to Bates’ current state of basketball obscurity.

In 2019, when Bates was 15, Sports Illustrated called him a “once in a generation talent” and compared him to Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and LeBron James. As a sophomore, ESPN ranked him as the top prospect in high school, regardless of class and compared him to Kevin Durant. That same year, Bates was highly praised by Yahoo Sports and Rivals.com after becoming the youngest boys basketball player to win the Gatorade Player of the Year award. During his junior year, The Athletic did a long feature on Bates and said, “It’s not a question of if Emoni will be a top pick in the NBA Draft, but when.”

That puts a lot of pressure on any basketball player, especially one as young as Bates.

Eastern Michigan basketball star Emoni Bates is facing a weapons possession charge in court following his arrest earlier this month.  (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

Eastern Michigan basketball star Emoni Bates is facing a weapons possession charge in court following his arrest earlier this month. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

Even at age 14, Bates turned heads with his long frame as a 6-foot-9 freshman in high school. He could score from anywhere on the court and dropped 43 points on Bronny James with LeBron training on the sideline. He had time to grow into his body and the sky seemed to be the limit for Bates. With his popularity rising, his father, Elgin (EJ) Bates, created high school and AAU teams just for his son (Ypsi Prep Academy and Nike’s Bates Basicamental). Bates and his teammates were flown all over the country for games and Bates himself needed security to get to and from the gym. All this was happening before Bates was 16 years old.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Bates would work out with his dad in his backyard every day and would rarely see any five-on-five competition for several months. When the high school season resumed six months later, Bates showed little improvement. He was forcing shots and getting into the body of stronger players. Ypsi Prep was regularly losing games on national television (one of the most high-profile games was against future No. 2 NBA draft pick Chet Holmgren). However, he remained the top high school prospect in the junior class.

The summer before his senior year, Bates announced that he would reclassify for up to a year and join Penny Hardaway’s squad at Memphis, playing alongside another high school teammate, Jalen Duren.

There was a lot of hype surrounding Duren and Bates when they came in as two of the top recruits in the nation. Hardaway managed to land top recruits like James Wiseman.

Bates began his college career averaging 16 points in the first three games. His playing time and consistency jumped soon after, and he left campus temporarily in late January, citing back pain. His body language on the bench and towards Hardaway was not positive and after the season, Bates entered the transition portal.

“You could see glimpses of his ability on the court but being so young and playing at the college level, it was clear he still needed another year of development,” one NBA scout told Yahoo Sports. “I was really looking forward to this season, especially at a program where he has to be ‘the guy’ and show leadership.”

Bates waited until August 23 to announce his commitment to Eastern Michigan. His other college or pro options included Louisville and the G League Ignite, but he chose the school located in his hometown of Ypsilanti.

He missed summer workouts with the team and was a late addition to the program.

“There are always pros and cons to staying closer to home,” one Power Five assistant coach told Yahoo Sports. “It is clear that your family is close to you and they are there to support you. The disadvantages that we see now with this Emoni situation. It is really a position like this, Seriously It’s a sad situation and you hate to see any child go through that.”

Bates is only 18. There is still time for him to fulfill his dream and make the NBA. Prior to his arrest, Bates was a projected first-round pick in the 2023 draft. Depending on how things play out on the court, that could change and NBA teams will be watching this closely.

“When evaluating players for the NBA, how they conduct themselves on the court is as important as it is off the court,” one NBA scout told Yahoo Sports. “There’s still time to learn from this and grow as a player, so I don’t think anyone’s completely wrapped up on Bates yet.”

This doesn’t have to be the end for Bates. Looking at last year’s draft class, Keegan Murray (No. 4 pick) was 22, Jalen Williams (No. 12 pick) was 21 and Ochai Agbaji (No. 14 pick) was 22. As that still has time to come out. of this, but it is now a steep uphill climb for Bates, with his first test coming October 6 in a courtroom.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.