Emoni Bates, 6-8, draws interest from MSU, UM as freshman season approaches

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Emoni Bates

Ypsilanti – Emoni Bates was working hard on his game at Ypsilanti Lincoln on the final Friday in September after finishing his first month of high school.

Bates, a 6-foot-8 freshman, is the top player in the nation for the class of 2022, according to Future150.com. Michigan State assistant coach Mike Garland and Michigan assistant Saddi Washington each made a trip to Lincoln for an open-gym session to watch him work out.

Bates, 14, then traveled to Colorado Springs last week to participate in USA Basketball’s U-15 training camp, coming home this past weekend with news that he made the team.

And while Bates was ecstatic to make Team USA, it also was a thrill for him to get the chance to perform in front of Garland, since Bates has been a longtime fan of the Spartans. He has made multiple trips to both the Breslin Center and Crisler Center with his father, E.J. Bates, to watch the Spartans and Wolverines play in recent seasons.

Bates says that MSU and UM showing interest in him is evidence that “my hard work is paying off.”

Bates added: “I go to Breslin and Crisler to watch games. I love everything basketball-wise.”

Bates, who has put on 10 pounds in the last few months to get to 174 pounds, has always been big for his age. He was born at 8 pounds, 7 ounces, and was 21 inches long.

He was 6-foot in fourth grade, 6-2 in sixth grade, 6-6 in seventh and now 6-8. And he is not done growing, expected to reach 6-10 or 6-11, near the size of Kevin Durant, who is Bates’ favorite player.

Bates is happy with his decision to attend Lincoln. He started playing AAU ball in fourth grade, then was coached by his father while playing for the Toledo Wildcats in the sixth grade, before continuing to work under his father’s guidance on the Bates Fundamentals team the past few years. He averaged 17 points this past summer, playing up an age group in the competitive U-15 division in the Nike EYBL.

Emoni Bates: "I love everything basketball-wise."

Bates averaged 46 points as a seventh grader at Clague Middle School in Ann Arbor while playing less than three quarters a game. He once scored 28 points in the opening quarter of a game. He didn’t play school ball as an eighth grader, choosing to refine his game individually.

“I’m really happy because this is my hometown, glad I made the decision since I’m close to my family and friends,” said Bates of attending Lincoln. “I’m happy I’ve made this decision because I wouldn’t want to go far where I couldn’t be with them.”

Lincoln head coach Jesse Davis played with E.J. Bates at Grand Rapids Community College.

“That’s really my uncle because I’ve known him since I was a baby,” said Bates of Davis. “I’ve always called him Uncle, used to watch them play all the time. I’m looking forward to playing for him.

“I’ve put on nine or 10 pounds recently and I can tell I’m more stable on my feet when people bump into me near the basket.”

E.J. Bates is pleased with the progress Emoni has made physically and with his game.

“I think he’s improved most strength-wise,” said E.J. “He’s gotten a lot stronger. On top of that, playing-wise, he’s maturing as far as mixing his game up more. Before, he wanted to just be on the perimeter and now he’s inside-out type of guy.”

With multiple top players in the state deciding on attending prep school – such as MSU-bound Rocket Watts going from Detroit Old Redford to SPIRE Academy in Ohio, and Harlond Beverly transferring from Southfield Christian to Montverde Academy in Florida – E.J. Bates has no plans to go that route with his son.

“Prep schools have been coming (to recruit Emoni), but my thing is this, the whole point of prep (schools) is for most kids who aren’t getting the recognition or being sought out, so they need to go and perform on a platform where it’s pretty much set up for them to get more looks,” E.J. said. “For a kid like Emoni, I feel as if we’re already being recruited by Division I schools, therefore it’s really not a need.

“Prep school is like a college life, and once most kids leave the nest, nine times out of 10 once they’re gone they’re gone. We want to cherish the next four years ourselves as parents.

“If God continues to bless him and keep him in good health and strength, and Emoni stays focused, he has the potential to leave a legacy behind at home,” E.J. added. “I feel that’s important because if you do it at a prep school it doesn’t mean as much. How often will you go back there once you’re done? People recognize you here. They want to watch you play. They’ll talk about you for years to come.”

Bates already has an offer from DePaul, and of course he's already on Michigan and Michigan State's radar.

Lincoln will be playing in showcase tournaments with Bates on board, opening the season in the Ypsilanti Tip-Off Classic Nov. 26 against Ann Arbor Huron at Eastern Michigan’s Convocation Center, then playing in the Horatio Williams Foundation Tip-Off Classic Dec. 1, facing Ferndale.

“It’s going to be fun so I’m looking forward to it,” Emoni said of his upcoming freshman season. “I can’t wait.”