At the age of 13, Emoni Bates was the number one prospect in all of basketball. He was 6-foot-7, dunking on eighth graders in Ann Arbor, Michigan and playing AAU basketball for his dad’s Bates Fundamentals team. Heading into high school, the hoops world fixed its gaze on the skinny small forward, and Bates delivered in his first two years at Lincoln High School in Ypsilanti, M.I.
Multiple 40-point games, a 60-point, 20-rebound performance, a state championship and the National Gatorade Player of the Year as a sophomore. Bates was on everyone’s radar.
Then things got weird. Before his junior year, Bates left Lincoln. On a nationally broadcast announcement, Emoni announced he was committing to Michigan State, and leaving the Michigan public high school to join Ypsi Prep Academy, a school created by his father Elgin strictly for the purpose of playing a nationwide high school basketball schedule. Bates had a beef with one of his teammates, 2021 MSU commit and now current Spartan Jaden Akins, who then left the team. The Ypsi Prep Ballboys (what a creative name) got whooped up and down the United States, as did the 17U Bates Fundamentals AAU team. Bates left his father’s AAU team to join Nike EYBL’s Team Final, but couldn’t play in the Peach Jam (which Team Final won).
Bates then skipped his senior year of high school, reclassified to the class of 2021 and committed to Memphis with Team Final teammate Jalen Duren. The pair were rumored to receive NIL deals of around half a million dollars from Memphis boosters working with FedEx. The hype surrounding the 2022 Memphis team was unreal. After winning the NIT championship in 2021 and bringing in the top-rated recruiting class, the Tigers were locked in every pre-season top 10. Emoni, now 6-foot-9, was going to play point guard, learning from former “big guard” and now Memphis coach Penny Hardaway.
However, Memphis was extremely dysfunctional at the beginning of the season. Penny Hardaway was throwing random ingredients in a mixer and trying to make a cake. The Tigers had no offensive chemistry.
Memphis lost to Georgia and Ole Miss, SEC cellar dwellers, then Murray State and Tulane. Bates started, then asked to be moved to the bench, then was put back in the starting lineup. Memphis assistant Rasheed Wallace was asked to leave the program, Penny cursed out the media and things were generally a mess. The team began to come together once Memphis got deep into AAC play. Coincidentally or not, Bates was back in Michigan, receiving treatment for a back injury. Overall, Emoni played in 18 games, averaging around 10 points in 23 minutes.
After such a rocky season, Emoni didn’t want to stick it out at Memphis, entering the transfer portal. At first, rumors of Kentucky, Louisville and Michigan swirled around the small forward. However, it all thinned out. Bates was left with Eastern Michigan, a school not 10 minutes away from his hometown of Ypsilanti.
There are three reasons Bates came home to EMU. One, to get away from the media spotlight. There is barely any coverage of MAC basketball, and Emoni will be able to take 20 shots a game and make mistakes without being intently scrutinized. Secondly, the Eagles have a random NIL donor or two. Now-USC quarterback Caleb Williams was offered around a million dollars to play at EMU. Most pertinently, Bates is back in the oversight of his father, who has been profiled by multiple media outlets as controlling and stubborn. While Elgin Bates might think he has all the answers for his son’s life plan, his formula hasn’t been successful.