In Eastern Michigan’s 88-83 loss to No. 22 Michigan in Detroit on Friday night, Emoni Bates looked like the player who was once hyped as a future NBA star, scoring 30 points and nearly leading his team to surprise.
Bates, the No. 3 rookie in the Class of 2021 who played at Memphis last season, hit 7 of his first 9 shots (12 for 19 overall) against the Wolverines in his first game since being transferred.
During his sophomore season in high school, Bates was widely considered one of America’s top recruits, regardless of class. Once hailed as the next Kevin Durant in grassroots circles, Bates was upgraded from the 2022 class, where he was the top rookie, according to ESPN’s ranking, to the 2021 class (No. sign with Penny Hardaway and Memphis months before the 2021-22 season.
But Bates, who was just 17 at the start of his freshman campaign, struggled in his freshman college basketball season — 9.7 points, 39% shooting from the field, 2.3 turnovers per match – and decided to transfer. He landed east of Michigan in his hometown of Ypsilanti.
However, he was arrested on two counts related to the discovery of a firearm in a vehicle he was driving near campus in September. A difficult chapter for the 6-foot-9 talent became more ominous after Eastern Michigan suspended him from all team activity as a result.
But Bates was reinstated to the team last month after prosecutors agreed to drop the charges against him. Defense attorney Steve Haney said the vehicle and weapon did not belong to Bates.
Eastern Michigan coach Stan Heath did not face Bates in the team’s season opener Monday against Division II Wayne State, and former Michigan State assistant Michigan did not say why he sat as a sophomore.
Bates was not made available to the media before or after the game, and Heath said it could be a few weeks before he is interviewed by reporters.
“It was a struggle for him when he wasn’t with the team,” Heath said. “When he came back and spoke to the team, the coaches left. I can just tell you he’s relishing the opportunity to be back at home, playing with a lot of teammates he’s known for years. years.
“What people see is all the hype, but he’s an 18-year-old working really hard to become an elite basketball player.”
Against Michigan, Bates showed some of the dazzling traits that prompted LeBron James to tweet “Emoni Bates up next!” after seeing him at a popular event last summer.
He showed his touch from the 3-point line (3 for 6). In the first half, he did a jump on one leg. He danced after a dunk in the second half. And he faced a fire that could make Eastern Michigan a serious threat in the MAC race – the Eagles were chosen to finish seventh in the league’s preseason poll – and a potential challenge for a Power opponent. 5 in the first round if they can. make their way to the NCAA Tournament.
“This young man has a chance to do some special things in basketball,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said.
Information from The Associated Press has been included in this report.