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'Something to consider': Prep phenom Emoni Bates might graduate early, play one year in college

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Ypsilanti – E.J. Bates is taking things day-by-day when the topic surrounds his 15-year-old son, Emoni Bates, who was on the cover of Sports Illustrated this past fall and is considered the top basketball player in the country.

Bates, 6-foot-9 and 190 pounds, led Ypsilanti Lincoln to its first state championship last season, averaging 28.5 points and 10.2 rebounds, and earned a spot on The Detroit News Dream Team as a freshman phenom. He is off to a strong start his sophomore season, averaging more than 25 points for Lincoln, 3-1 and ranked No. 3 in the state by The Detroit News.

Emoni Bates

E.J.’s plan is to have Emoni enter the NBA Draft after high school. NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in May at an event in Washington, D.C., that the 2022 draft probably will allow the best high school players to jump straight to the NBA rather than play a year of college ball.

But Emoni still could still play a year of college ball by reclassifying and taking more classes to graduate from Lincoln in June 2021. Bates already has offers from Michigan, Michigan State and other colleges.

When asked if Emoni would reclassify, E.J. said: “I guess it’s something to consider if it makes sense. I’d love for him to stay home (and play four years at Lincoln), but if there’s no challenges for him. … I mean, we won the state championship and we’re repeating the same journey. Why? I mean, it’s something to consider if we’re still competing in the (SEC) White.

“People wonder why kids are leaving the state. When I look at our roster I see five Division 1 kids and they’re not getting challenged in the White. We play 20 regular-season games and they’re challenged maybe four or five times, so how does that help Emoni or anyone else on our team. We should be playing in the Red, playing Ann Arbor Huron, Pioneer, Saline.

In addition to Lincoln, the SEC White has Adrian, Chelsea, Dexter, Jackson, Pinckney, Tecumseh and Ypsilanti. The SEC Red has Temperance Bedford, Monroe, Saline and the three Ann Arbor schools – Huron, Pioneer and Skyline.

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“We’re playing in the White and I’m concerned with what’s going to happen with silly stuff – Emoni being pushed or undercut. We have to be cautious at all times when we’re playing in the White, like what’s going to happen when he goes down the lane, and that’s no fun. He has an Okemos player throw the ball at his head (in non-conference game Dec. 28); what’s that about? As a parent I’ve got to do what’s best for my child because when everybody else is gone it’s just you and your family.”

Bates scored 31 in Lincoln’s 79-73 win over Okemos Dec. 28 in a game played at Eastern Michigan’s Convocation Center, dunking in the final seconds, then having an Okemos player toss the ball at Emoni’s head following the game.

When asked if Emoni could be playing at a national powerhouse prep school next year, or his senior year if he doesn’t reclassify, E.J. said: “That’s not happening. I want him to stay home and play at Lincoln, but we want better competition. They need to be playing in the Red and you’d think the coaches would want their players challenged too. After all, aren’t we all here to prepare the kids for the next level?

“It’s not just about getting wins, it’s about getting better, getting out of your comfort zone because you’re going to face adversity and adversity is the key to life. I’m an action guy and we want Emoni and all of his teammates in a better situation.”

Lincoln lost its season opener to No. 2 River Rouge 63-53 at EMU when the Railsplitters made just 17-of-37 free throws. Lincoln will play host to No. 6 Grand Rapids Catholic Central March 5. GRCC handed River Rouge its lone loss back in December.

E.J. said Emoni has a fracture in his toe and won’t play again until the Martin Luther King Day game Jan. 20 against Detroit Edison at EMU.