Emoni Bates was one of the top high school prospects in the country and was hailed as “the next Kevin Durant.”
Bates has dropped considerably in the last two years since receiving such glowing praise and screenings. Perhaps his lowest point was last weekend, when he was arrested on weapons charges after a traffic stop and suspended from his varsity team in eastern Michigan.
Bates was driving a borrowed car and the weapon, a firearm, did not belong to him, his attorney said at a hearing the day after the arrest. A court date has been set for October 6 and the situation will play out in the court system.
Bates could be found not guilty and be able to return to basketball at EMU or, if convicted, he may not even wear a jersey or play a single game in the upcoming college season. For anyone lucky enough to see Bates play like a young prospect when he first hit the basketball scene, it’s hard to believe this is where he ended up at 18 years old.
He’s been down a path of questionable decisions, on and off the basketball court, amid intense media glare. One could argue that the hype contributed to Bates’ current status in basketball limbo.
In 2019, when Bates was 15 years old, 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, Yahoo Sports and Rivals.com gave Bates high praise after he became the youngest men’s basketball player to win the Gatorade Player of the Year award. During his junior year, The Athletic made a lengthy presentation about Bates, stating, “It’s not about if Emoni will be a top pick in the NBA Draft, it’s about when.”
That’s a lot of pressure for any basketball player, especially someone as young as Bates.
Even at age 14, Bates turned heads with his long, 6-foot-9 high school freshman frame. He could score from anywhere on the floor and scored 43 points over Bronny James with LeBron coaching on the sidelines. He had time to grow into his body and the sky seemed to be the limit for Bates. With his growing popularity, his father, Elgin (EJ) Bates, created a high school team and AAU just for his son (Ypsi Prep Academy and Nike’s Bates Fundamental). Bates and his teammates flew across the country for games and Bates himself needed security to get to and from the gym. All of this was happening before Bates turned 16.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Bates worked out with his father in their backyard every day and rarely saw a five-on-five competition for several months. When the high school season resumed six months later, Bates had shown little to no development. He was forcing shots and getting body from stronger players. Ypsi Prep regularly lost games on national television (one of the highest-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 one year and join Penny Hardaway’s team in Memphis, playing alongside high school teammate Jalen Duren.
There was much anticipation surrounding Duren and Bates as they arrived as two of the top recruits in the nation. Hardaway was successful in recruiting top recruits like James Wiseman.
Bates began his college career averaging 16 points through the first three games. His playing time and consistency tanked soon after, and he temporarily left campus 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 transfer portal.
“You could see glimpses of his potential on the court, but being so young and playing at the college level, it was clear he still needed another year of development,” an NBA scout told Yahoo Sports. “He was really looking forward to this season, especially on a show where he would have to be ‘the guy’ and show leadership.”
Bates waited until August 23 to announce his commitment to eastern Michigan. Her other college or career options included Louisville and G League Ignite, but she chose the school located in her hometown of Ypsilanti.
He missed summer training with the team and joined the program late.
“There are always pros and cons to being closer to home,” a Power Five assistant coach told Yahoo Sports. “Obviously the pros are that you have your family around and they’re there to support you. The cons are what we’re seeing with this Emoni situation right now. People who shouldn’t be around and are a bad influence can put you in a tough spot.” “. position like this. Is really, Really sad situation and you hate to see any child go through that.
Bates is only 18 years old. There is still time for him to fulfill his dream and reach the NBA. Before his arrest, Bates was a projected first-round pick in the 2023 draft. Depending on how things play out in court, that could change and NBA teams will be watching him closely.
“When evaluating players for the NBA, it’s just as important how they conduct themselves on the court as it is off the court,” an NBA scout told Yahoo Sports. “There’s still time for him to learn from this and grow as a player, so I don’t think anyone is completely giving up on Bates yet.”
This is not necessarily 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. So there’s still time to leave. of this, but now it’s a steep climb for Bates, with the first test of him on October 6 in a courtroom.