Ypsilanti Lincoln fans have to be thrilled with the news Emoni Bates — the Gatorade High School Boys Basketball National Player of the Year award winner — has no plans to reclassify or transfer to another school.
Bates, a 6-foot-9 guard, helped Lincoln win the Division 1 state championship his freshman year, earning a spot on The News Dream Team in the process.
Bates returned to help Lincoln to a 19-3 record this past winter as a sophomore while putting his team in position for another state title run. Lincoln advanced to the district championship game and a rematch against Ann Arbor Huron, a team it lost to during the regular season, when the COVID-19 pandemic put things to a halt.
When Bates became the first sophomore and youngest player at age 16 to win the Gatorade High School Boys Basketball National Player of the Year honor, his father EJ was asked if Emoni would remain at Lincoln since it competed in the SEC White, a weaker competitive division to the SEC Red which Ann Arbor Huron, Ann Arbor Pioneer, Saline and other schools compete in. EJ had also talked about the possibility of reclassifying.
“He will be a junior next year,” EJ stated Thursday when asked if Emoni was reclassifying, adding that he will remain at Lincoln. “There’s no rush.”
Bates averaged 28.5 points and 10.2 rebounds his freshman year, joining four senior starters from an 11-10 team to not only help Lincoln win its first conference championship in 15 years, but first state title in program history.
Then, Bates was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated in November before becoming the leader of a young Lincoln team which included two sophomores — Bates and DeCorion Temple — and 6-2 freshman Braelon Green in the starting lineup.
Bates averaged 31 points and 10 rebounds this past season, scoring 40 or more points five times, including a 63-point, 21-rebound effort in a 108-102 double-overtime win over Chelsea and scoring 48 in a 78-49 rout of No. 13 Grand Rapids Catholic Central, just days before the start of the state tournament.
Yes, there is no rush for Bates to graduate and play a year of college ball before ultimately reaching his dream of playing in the NBA.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in May of 2019 that the one-and-done rule of having players play a year of college ball before entering the NBA Draft was no longer good policy and more than likely giving high school players graduating in 2022 the opportunity to declare for the NBA Draft.
“Emoni still has a great upside; of course he’s a good shooter, a good rebounder and has a great awareness for the game, but he could be so much better,” Lincoln coach Jesse Davis said. “I think developing him more into an all-around player will be my goal, just keeping him focused on doing the right things on and off the court.
“I think he has to be really mentored to doing the right things because if he does make that leap (in 2022 to the NBA) he’s going to be forced to grow up really fast. He’s going to be on the road with NBA players and he’s going to be 19 years old, so he’s going to have to be able to carry himself in the right manner. He’s not going to be a grownup. He’ll be an adult legally, the status and money will say he’s grown up, but really it takes some time to grow up.
“He’s getting a little stronger, a little thicker, broader shoulders, bigger arms, but he wants to stay lean. Most kids want to bulk up and get bigger but add a little muscle at a time. He can run faster and longer than any player he plays against. We know he’ll continue to work on his game and get better, but I think he just has to get better on and off the court to get ready for that whole situation.”
Davis said Lincoln would have been concluding a month of camps and players would be moving on to AAU competition, but that was pre-COVID-19. He said the AAU Peach Jam already has been canceled, but there’s a possibility AAU competition could still be played later this summer in July.
“I feel like I’m behind schedule right now,” said Davis. “I’ve just talked to my players about staying in shape and working on their game. I’m not in a rush to get back, got to think about the safety of the kids and myself because I have a family too. We’re not quite sure of what we’re dealing with, so I guess we have to listen and make the proper precautions to keep ourselves healthy.
“It was tough to have the season end when it did, it was tough because I thought we were really starting to come around. I don’t think we were all the way there yet, but I think as a team we just started to figure out how much we needed each other, so it was tough to cut it off on that note.
“I like to peak at that time. I want to go through every situation possible during the season, take our bumps and bruises, getting whupped on by Benton Harbor (73-51). We want to learn from all that and then know what’s needed to be done for us to win.”
Davis feels Lincoln can compete for the state title next winter with Bates, Green and Temple returning, along with the backcourt of Simon Wheeler and Keon Henderson. And, don’t forget 6-6 soon-to-be sophomore John McCrear, who was called up from the JV team during the postseason and had eight points, eight rebounds and 10 blocks in a district semifinal win over Ypsilanti.
“We went 19-3 with a whole new team so I think we can be really tough having everybody back,” Davis said. “Braelon (Green) and Decorion (Temple) are still young guys and they need more high school games under their belts, but right now I’m satisfied with their growth. They are working out with their dads, so I’ve been talking to them about staying in shape and doing whatever they can as far as skill work. I’m looking forward to those guys coming back. They’re going to play a big role.”