'I'm big on loyalty': Emoni Bates commits to Michigan State, will play for dad's prep school

David Goricki
The Detroit News

National Gatorade High School Player of the Year award winner Emoni Bates of Ypsilanti Lincoln announced Monday that he committed to Michigan State.

And while it’s possible that he will never even step on Breslin Center’s floor to play for the Spartans, the accompanying big news was that Bates will be playing his final two years of high school basketball at a prep school created by his father, E.J. Bates. Ypsi Prep Academy will play powerhouse schools across the country, unlike what the MHSAA allows high school teams to play.

Emoni Bates

“I’m not sure what my future may hold, but I do know as of right know I will be committed to Michigan State University,” said Emoni, a 6-foot-9 guard, on ESPN’s SportsCenter as he was alongside his parents, brother, and Ypsilanti Lincoln coach Jesse Davis, a longtime friend of E.J.’s.

“They’ve been showing love to me since I was in the seventh grade,” Emoni said of the Spartans. “They’ve been recruiting me hard since then, so I just know that they’re showing that they love me genuine and they have just been here for a long time. I’m big on loyalty and they’ve showed me all loyalty, so I have to show them love back.”

It's possible the NBA’s one-and-done rule could be a thing of the past by the time Bates’ high school eligibility has run out, so he could go straight to the pros.

Multiple 2022 NBA mock drafts have Bates being the No. 1 pick if league commissioner Adam Silver gives Bates’ 2022 class the right to immediately enter the draft.

E.J. Bates told The Detroit News last week that Emoni didn’t plan on reclassifying and would be a junior in the fall at Lincoln.

In addition, it was less than a year ago when E.J. told The News: “I don’t get the prep school thing. I feel like we can get it done here (Lincoln) and still say on course to accomplish our ultimate goal (of reaching the NBA).

More: Michigan State's perseverance appears to pay off with commitment of Emoni Bates

“Prep school is too much. 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 in the league, 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.”

E.J. changed his tune about prep schools, especially his own, when talking about Ypsi Prep Academy on ESPN.

“I just think it’s time to be in a situation where he can continue to grow and develop and also be around like-minded individuals who aspire to play on the higher level and is committed in the gym that can also challenge him every day in practice,” E.J. said.

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 that finished 19-3 and advanced to the district title game when the season was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bates averaged 31 points and 10 rebounds this past season, scoring 40 or more points five times, including a 63-point, 21-rebound performance in a double-overtime win over Chelsea.

Jesse Davis

Davis got a call from E.J. Sunday to invite him to be on ESPN. Davis did an outstanding job with Emoni the past two years at Lincoln, then worked on moving Lincoln to the SEC Red this season so Emoni could play in one of the top divisions in the state, with Lincoln joining Ann Arbor Huron, Ann Arbor Skyline, Ann Arbor Pioneer, Ypsilanti, Saline and Temperance Bedford.

“Last night E.J called me and said Emoni wanted me to be there,” Davis told The News on Monday, about the ESPN announcement. “Everybody loves the basketball player Emoni, but I know Emoni the kid. I support him and his dreams. Whatever he wants to do, I’m on his side. Unfortunately, I can’t coach him anymore, but we’ll do our training and I’ll do my evaluations and give him some tips; that’s never going to change. Our relationship won’t change; he’ll always be welcome in my home and I will be in his.

“I don’t have any control of what they were going to do. It was always in the back of my mind anyway that it would happen sooner or later, maybe his senior year, junior year, I really didn’t know so I’m not surprised.

“I kind of figured he might outgrow Lincoln and do something different. But this had to be in the works for a while because you don’t start a prep school overnight.”

According to multiple reports, Bates’ prep school will be run as a Michigan satellite campus to Aim High Academy. Bates is expected to be joined by Lincoln teammate John McCrear, Dillon Hunter of Atlanta and several other Metro Detroit players, including Javaughn Hannah of Mount Clemens, Orlando Lovejoy of Romulus Summit Academy and possibly four-star guard Jaden Akins of Farmington.

E.J. Bates was asked on SportsCenter why he felt more schools didn’t offer Emoni during the recruiting process?

“I was upset at first, but the one that he really wanted to go to was recruiting him heavy and they’ve been consistent the whole way,” he said. “So as long as he got the offer that he wanted and wanted to participate at and the school he actually wants to play for I’m happy.”