Emony Bates was one of the nation’s top high school applicants and was hailed as “the next Kevin Durant”.
Bates has fallen significantly in the past two years since receiving these rave reviews and predictions. Perhaps his worst point was last weekend when he was arrested on weapons charges after a traffic stop and suspended from his college team in Eastern Michigan.
Bates was driving a rental car and did not own the firearm, his lawyer said at a hearing the day after his arrest. The trial date is set for October 6 and the situation will play out in the judicial system.
Bates could be found not guilty and be able to return to basketball at EMU, or if found guilty, he might not even wear a jersey and play a single game in the upcoming college season. For those lucky enough to see Bates play as a young prospect when he first entered the basketball scene, it’s hard to believe that this is where he ended up at 18.
He’s been on a journey of questionable decisions, on and off the basketball court, under heavy media scrutiny. It could be argued that the hype has contributed to Bates’ current state of basketball limbo.
In 2019, when Bates was 15, Sports Illustrated called him “a once-in-a-generation talent”. and compared him to Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and LeBron James. As a sophomore ESPN named him the best prospect in high school., regardless of class, and compared him to Kevin Durant. That same year, Sportzshala Sports and Rivals.com praised Bates after he became the youngest boys basketball player to win the Gatorade Player of the Year award. In the lower grade The Athletic made a detailed report about Bates and stated, “The question is not whether Emoni will be the top pick in the NBA draft, but when.”
That’s a lot of pressure for any basketball player, especially for a young player like Bates.
Even at 14 years old, Bates commanded attention with his long, 6’9″ high school freshman physique. He could score from anywhere on the pitch and lost 43 points to Bronnie James with LeBron coaching on the sideline. He managed to grow into his body, and the sky was the limit for Bates. With his rise in popularity, his father, Elgin (A.J.) Bates, created a high school and AAU team just for his son (Ypsi Prep Academy and Nike’s Bates Fundamental). Bates and his teammates flew all over the country to the games, and Bates himself needed security to get to and from the gym. All this happened before Bates was 16 years old.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Bates worked out every day with his dad in the backyard and rarely saw five-on-five competition for months. When the school season resumed six months later, Bates had made little progress. He forced shots and was attacked by stronger players. Ypsi Prep regularly lost games on national television (one of the most high-profile games was against future NBA draft #2 Chet Holmgren). However, he remained a top high school prospect through his junior years.
The summer before his senior year, Bates announced that he would reclassify a year and join Penny Hardaway’s team in Memphis, playing alongside fellow high school player Jalen Duren.
There was a lot of buzz around Duren and Bates as they became two of the best recruits in the country. Hardaway was successful in attracting top recruits such as James Wiseman.
Bates began his college career averaging 16 points in his first three games. Shortly thereafter, his playing time and stability plummeted, and he temporarily left campus in late January, citing worsening back pain. His body language on the bench and towards Hardaway was not positive and after the season Bates entered the transfer portal.
“You could see glimpses of his potential on the court, but being so young and playing at the college level, it was clear he still needed another year of development,” one NBA scout told Sportzshala Sports. “I was really looking forward to this season, especially the programs where he had to be the ‘boy’ and show leadership.”
Bates waited until August 23 to announce his commitment to Eastern Michigan. His other college or professional options included Louisville and G League Ignite, but he chose a school located in his hometown of Ypsilanti.
He missed summer training with the team and entered the program late.
“There are always pros and cons to staying closer to home,” one Power Five assistant coach told Sportzshala Sports. “The upside is obviously that you have your family next to you and they are ready to support you. The downsides are what we’re seeing right now in this Emony situation. People who should not be around and who are a bad influence can put you in this position. It’s really, Indeed sad situation and you hate to see any child go through this.”
Bates is only 18 years old. He still has time to fulfill his dream and get into the NBA. Prior to his arrest, Bates was selected in the first round of the 2023 draft. Depending on how things play out in court, things could change, and NBA teams will be keeping a close eye on that.
“When evaluating NBA players, it’s just as important how they perform on the court as they do off the court,” one NBA scout told Sportzshala Sports. “He still has time to learn from that and grow as a player, so I don’t think anyone else is completely dumping Bates.”
This is not necessarily the end for Bates. Looking at last year’s draft class, Keegan Murray (#4 pick) was 22, Jalen Williams (#12 pick) was 21, and Ochai Agbaji (#14 pick) was 22. So there is still time to open up. out of it, but now it’s a steep climb for Bates, with his first trial taking place on October 6 in the courtroom.