Emoni Bates, once can't-miss NBA prospect, transferring after one season at Memphis

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Let the mad dash for Emoni Bates begin — again.

Bates, a Ypsilanti native who once was considered a can't-miss NBA prospect, announced Saturday that he is entering the transfer portal and will leave Memphis after one up-and-down season.

"I’d like to thank Coach Penny (Hardaway), my teammates and the entire coaching staff at the University of Memphis for giving me the opportunity to be a Tiger," Bates wrote on Instagram. "Thank you Tiger Nation for embracing me and all of you who supported our team throughout the season. With that being said, I have decided to enter the transfer portal. Thank you!”

Ypsilanti's Emoni Bates announced Saturday he is transferring from Memphis.

Bates played 18 games in his freshman season, starting 13 of them. The 6-foot-9, 190-pound forward averaged 9.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists.

He also missed a significant amount of time, including 12 games late in the regular season with a reported back injury. There were reports there was more to his absence, perhaps unhappiness in the program, but his father denied those reports. EJ Bates did not immediately return a message from The Detroit News on Saturday afternoon.

Bates returned for Memphis' NCAA Tournament appearance, with three minutes in an opening victory over Boise State and 12 minutes in a second-round loss to Gonzaga.

For the season, he had highs of 17 points, seven rebounds, six assists, three blocks and three steals.

Out of high school, Bates, a consensus five-star prospect, was one of the most-recruited prep players, and chose Memphis over Michigan State (his original commitment), Oregon and the NBA's G League.

He remains ineligible for the 2022 NBA Draft, having turned 18 in January. Players must be 19 to be eligible.

Bates played three seasons of prep ball in Michigan, leading Ypsilanti Lincoln to a Division 1 championship as a freshman in May 2019. In October 2019, he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, next to the headline, "Born For This." He was the 2020 Gatorade national player of the year, having averaged 32.4 points, nine rebounds, three assists and 2.2 steals. As a junior at Ypsi Prep Academy, he averaged 24.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists before reclassifying to the Class of 2021.

Bates' star rose quickly in Metro Detroit. As a seventh-grader in Ann Arbor, he averaged 46 points a game, enough to convince one recruiting website to then declare him the top prospect for the Class of 2022.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984