Stronger Emoni Bates dominates AAU circuit, preps for encore

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Ypsilanti – Emoni Bates got a good workout in during practice with his Bates Fundamentals AAU team Sunday evening to prepare for this week’s Peach Jam tournament in Augusta, Georgia.

Bates has spent plenty of time in the weight room – in addition to the hours on the basketball court – this summer to work on his game. He is the No. 1-ranked player in the nation for the 2022 class.

Emoni Bates makes a basket in the state championship game win over U-D Jesuit.

Bates is now 6-foot-9 and 180 pounds, putting on 16 pounds since last summer.

Bates’ freshman season at Ypsilanti Lincoln was remarkable. Lincoln had never won a regional championship in boys basketball, but Bates averaged 28.5 points and 10.2 rebounds to lead Lincoln to the Division 1 state title.

Bates showed his poise and talent when he helped Lincoln battle back from fourth-quarter deficits multiple times during the postseason, including a 10-point deficit with 4:40 left in a regional semifinal win over Ann Arbor Skyline and a nine-point deficit with five minutes left in the state title game win over U-D Jesuit.

Bates has played in three AAU tournaments so far this summer, and had one memorable 43-point performance in Indiana, stealing the show against a team led by LeBron James’ son.

“It was fun,” said Bates of playing against LeBron “Bronny” James Jr. and his Strive for Greatness team back on May 11.

After the game, the Los Angeles Lakers star congratulated Bates on his performance. “Yes, he (LeBron) came over to shake my hand,” Bates said.

Bates has played in AAU tournaments in Atlanta, Dallas and Indiana, going 13-3 in the 15U Nike EYBL circuit while qualifying for the World Series of tournaments, this week’s Peach Jam. The Bates Fundamentals team will conclude the AAU season in Las Vegas.

Bates is averaging 32 points and 15 rebounds in AAU competition this summer.

“I’m getting stronger and getting to the basket,” Bates told The Detroit News. “I’ve gotten a lot stronger since the high school season. I’ve been in the gym every day, and I’ve been working in the weight room and I can feel it on the court when I’m playing. It’s now easier for me to get to the basket.”

Bates said he eats four times a day – steak and rice are among his favorites. He stays away from fast food but admits he does enjoy an occasional stop at Wendy’s.

As for the upcoming high school season, Bates believes he will be able to lead a younger team after Lincoln lost four senior starters that played big roles.

“I’m just going to have to be a leader,” Emoni said. “We’re going to be underdogs again, just have to work every day in practice and outside of practice. It was a good accomplishment as a freshman, so I’m just happy to have that title under my belt right now.”

Emoni Bates

Bates has no problem being the underdog.

“I’d rather be the underdog than in the top spot, because when you come up as the underdog you get to show people how talented you are, you can show them that you can play with them too,” Bates said.

Bates has offers from DePaul and Florida State, but if everything goes well he plans to play in the NBA immediately after high school. NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in May that the 2022 draft probably will allow the best high school players to jump straight into the NBA rather than playing a year of college or international basketball before turning pro.

E.J. Bates said his son is staying at Lincoln and they have no intention of ever playing for a prep school. E.J. is thrilled to see that Emoni is spending time with his friends, going to movies or to the water park.

“Just being a kid,” E.J. said. “This is the first summer I was able to see he was more willing to be a kid and do all the things that kids do versus, ‘Let’s go to the gym.’ I am really happy for him being able to decompress and be a 15-year-old kid.”

E.J. Bates is no advocate of prep schools.

“Prep school is too much,” he said. “You’re playing 30 to 40 games, then you go to AAU season, then some guys go to USA Basketball. When do you get a break? Then, you wonder why in your first year, if you do go to the NBA, you’re dealing with injuries the whole time. It’s just because you beat up your body for too long. Your body has to rest.

“I don’t get the prep school thing. I feel like we can get it done here and still stay on course to accomplish our ultimate goal (of reaching the NBA). The Nike EYBL, you have the top guys all over the country coming to play in four different arenas during the course of the summer and there’s no slouch games. Just playing in that circuit prepares you.”

The Bates Fundamentals team was set to hit the road Monday to travel to Georgia with 6-11 Shawn Phillips from Akron, 6-6 Decorian Temple (Lincoln), Javaughn Hannah (Mt. Clemens), Orlando Lovejoy (Summit Academy) and Juwan Maxey (Detroit Renaissance) among Emoni’s AAU teammates.

 “The Peach Jam is it,” said E.J. “It’s for all the marbles.”