In Eastern Michigan’s 88-83 loss to No. 22 Detroit on Friday night, Emoni Bates looked like the player once hyped as a future NBA star as he scored 30 points and almost sent his team into disaster led.
Bates, the No. 3 recruit in the 2021 class who played at Memphis last season, made seven of his first nine shots (12-19 overall) against the Wolverines in his first game since joining.
During his sophomore season of high school, Bates was widely regarded as one of America’s finest recruits, regardless of his class. Once hailed as the next Kevin Durant in grassroots circles, Bates made the transition from Class of 2022, where he was the top recruit according to ESPN rankings, to Class of 2021 (No. 3 per ESPN) before joining Penny Hardaway and Memphis months earlier signed the 2021/22 season.
But Bates, who was just 17 when his freshman campaign began, struggled in his freshman season in college basketball — 9.7 PPG, 39% from the field, 2.3 turnovers per game — and subsequently decided to switch . He ended up in eastern Michigan in his hometown of Ypsilanti, Michigan, where he was mostly viewed as a fallen star who couldn’t live up to the one-and-done hype and lost most of his luster in the eyes of NBA executives .
He was then arrested on two counts involving a gun found in a vehicle he was driving near campus in September. A difficult chapter for the 6-foot-9 talent became even more ominous after Eastern Michigan subsequently suspended him from all team activity.
But Bates was reinstated on the team last month after prosecutors agreed to drop the charges against him. Defense attorney Steve Haney said the vehicle and gun did not belong to Bates.
Eastern Michigan coach Stan Heath did not play Bates in the team’s season-opener game against Division II Wayne State on Monday, and the former Michigan State assistant declined to say why he was a sophomore.
Bates was not made available to the media before or after the game and Heath said it could be a few weeks before he is interviewed by reporters.
“It was a struggle for him when he wasn’t on the team,” Heath said. “When he came back and spoke to the team, the coaches left. All I can tell you is that he appreciates his opportunity to be back home and playing with a lot of teammates he has known for years.
“What people are seeing is all the hype, but he’s an 18-year-old boy working really hard to become an elite basketball player.”
On Friday against Michigan, Bates displayed some of the scintillating qualities that led LeBron James to tweet “Emoni Bates up next!” after seeing him at a grassroots sporting event last summer.
He showed his touch from the 3-point line (3-for-6). In the first half, he made a jump shot from one leg. He danced after a dunk in the second half. And he competed with a fire that could make Eastern Michigan a serious threat in the MAC race — the Eagles were ranked seventh in the league’s preseason poll — and a potential challenge for a Power Five opponent in the first round if they can make their way to the NCAA tournament.
“There’s an opportunity for this young man to do some special things in the game of basketball,” said Michigan coach Juwan Howard.
Information from The Associated Press was included in this report.
https://www.espn.com/mens-college-basketball/story/_/id/35006768/ex-top-prospect-emoni-bates-30-eastern-michigan-debut Ex-top recruit Emoni Bates has 30 in Eastern Michigan debut