Emoni Bates, former prized basketball prospect, declares for NBA draft

Emoni Bates, one of the most-hyped high school basketball prospects in recent memory, is moving on to the pros.

Bates, who spent his sophomore season at Eastern Michigan after beginning his college career at Memphis, confirmed on Monday that he has declared for the NBA draft.

Bates, 19, averaged 19.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per game this season at EMU on a team that went 8-23 overall and 5-13 in MAC play. Bates led the Eagles in both scoring and rebounding while shooting 40.5% the field and 33% from 3-point range.

Emoni Bates drew comparisons to LeBron, KD

Bates once drew comparisons to LeBron James and Kevin Durant and graced the cover of Sports Illustrated as a high school sophomore, the same year he won the national Gatorade Player of the Year.

Back then, he was viewed as a potential No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. Now he is projected by most NBA draft analysts as a likely second-round pick. Yahoo Sports’ Krysten Peek slotted Bates at No. 45 overall in her most recent mock draft from earlier this month.

The 6-foot-9 Bates was originally a 2022 recruit who verbally committed to Michigan State, but many were skeptical he’d play for MSU as more professional options became available for high school players. Later on, he reclassified to the class of 2021 and enrolled at Memphis to play for Penny Hardaway alongside fellow five-star prospect Jalen Duren (a 2022 first-round pick of the Detroit Pistons).

Bates spent one season with the Tigers and played in only 18 games, averaging 9.7 points per game while shooting 38.6% from the field. He missed a big chunk of the season due to an apparent back injury before returning in a bench role for Memphis’ two games in the NCAA tournament. Notably, Memphis went 10-2 without Bates in the lineup.

Eastern Michigan forward Emoni Bates plays during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Friday, Nov. 11, 2022, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Eastern Michigan forward Emoni Bates plays during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Friday, Nov. 11, 2022, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Bates led Eastern Michigan in scoring, rebounding

Following his freshman season, Bates entered the transfer portal. He initially narrowed his choices down to Arkansas, DePaul, Eastern Michigan, Louisville, Michigan and Seton Hall. Louisville was initially seen as the favorite to land Bates, but he ended up choosing to play for his hometown school.

The Ypsilanti, Michigan, native had some impressive moments during his season at EMU. Bates nearly led EMU to an upset over Michigan in the first game of the season and got some social media love from LeBron James as he scored 29 consecutive points in a loss to Toledo.

There was also a high-profile off-the-court incident as Bates was arrested on weapon charges in September after a gun was found in a vehicle he was driving. Bates pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, received 18 months probation and issued a public apology. The conviction will be expunged from his record if he completes probation, The Detroit News reported.

Just 19 years old and with two seasons of college basketball experience, Bates will now look to make a run at a professional basketball career.