How the Bradley Braves will handle Eastern Michigan and its heralded basketball recruit

Eastern Michigan forward Emoni Bates scores against Michigan during the first half of U-M's 88-83 win on Friday, Nov. 9, 2022, at Little Caesars Arena.
Eastern Michigan forward Emoni Bates scores against Michigan during the first half of U-M's 88-83 win on Friday, Nov. 9, 2022, at Little Caesars Arena.

PEORIA — Here comes Emoni Bates.

Before the Eastern Michigan basketball star walks across the stage at the NBA Draft next summer, he will hold center stage at Carver Arena on Tuesday night.

And the Bradley Braves will have to steal the spotlight.

Both Bates and the Braves are in recovery mode, Bradley trying to bounce back from a 22-point loss at Utah State on Saturday, Bates from a roller-coaster path he's been on since age 15 as perhaps the top prospect in the nation.

More:Why Bradley's projected starting lineup might surprise you, plus MVC's great expectations

Bates is a 6-foot-10 kid who was a wing at Memphis, and has used his skill set to play at guard, and ultimately transferred to Eastern Michigan.

Bates was on the cover of Sports Illustrated at age 15, once committed to Michigan State at age 16, was with Memphis under Penny Hardaway at age 17, and now, just 18, is recovering from a run-in with police in Michigan.

Felony charges stemming from a traffic stop were dropped in October, and he returned from team suspension to make his Eastern Michigan debut over the weekend and dropped 30 points on No. 22 Michigan.

And now one of the nation's elite prospects — who seems to be in perpetual career do-over mode — will lead his team against Bradley in what actually is the start of the 2022-23 Cancun Challenge.

Bradley's Zek Montgomery, right, moves to the basket against a pair of UW-Parkside defenders in the first half of the Braves' season opener Monday, Nov. 7, 2022 at Carver Arena. The Braves defeated the Rangers 93-59.
Bradley's Zek Montgomery, right, moves to the basket against a pair of UW-Parkside defenders in the first half of the Braves' season opener Monday, Nov. 7, 2022 at Carver Arena. The Braves defeated the Rangers 93-59.

Who plays in the Cancun Challenge?

Bradley won the 2018 Riviera Division of the Cancun Challenge.

In 2022, the first round of the Cancun event is played on campus, thus Bradley hosting Eastern Michigan.

Both teams will continue on to Cancun later this month. Eastern Michigan will play in the Mayan Division with Southern Miss, Purdue-FW, and Winthrop.

Bradley will play in the Riviera Division with Auburn (Nov. 22), Liberty, and Northwestern.

'One final ride': Bradley super senior ready to open his final college basketball season

Eastern Michigan at Bradley

  • When: 7 p.m. Tuesday

  • Where: Carver Arena, Peoria

  • Watch: ESPN+.

  • Listen: WMBD-AM 1470, FM 100.3

  • Records: Bradley, 1-1. Eastern Michigan, 1-1.

  • KenPom ranking: Eastern Michigan, No. 295. Bradley, No. 133.

  • Head coaches: Eastern Michigan, Stan Heath (2nd season). Bradley, Brian Wardle (8th season).

  • All-time series: Bradley, 1-0.

  • Wardle says: "We'll learn from it (the Utah State loss) and we gotta be ready to go at home on Tuesday. Defensively more consistent and better, defend better. That's the biggest thing I want to see (Tuesday). And defend for 40 minutes. Not like tonight. Make it tough on the opponent."

  • Bravely Speaking: Bradley sophomore wing Zek Montgomery needs one point to reach 100 career points. … BU point guard Duke Deen notched his 100th and 101st career assists against Utah State. … Bradley is 30-9 all-time against MAC teams and 21-1 at home. … The Braves are 27-14 in November over the last six seasons. … The Braves have had five different players score in double figures so far, and five players hit 3s.

Dave Eminian is the Journal Star sports columnist, and covers Bradley men's basketball, the Rivermen and Chiefs. He writes the Cleve In The Eve sports column for pjstar.com. He can be reached at 686-3206 or deminian@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @icetimecleve.

This article originally appeared on Journal Star: College basketball preview: Bradley vs. Eastern Michigan, Emoni Bates