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Emoni Bates, the consensus No. 1 player in the incoming high school senior class, announced on Wednesday that he will be reclassifying up a grade and forgoing his senior year. Bates is down to a final four consisting of Oregon, Memphis, Michigan State and the G League Ignite team.
The 6-foot-9 wing was previously committed to Michigan State last summer but reopened his options in the spring. Bates averaged 22.2 points per game during the biggest AAU tournament of the summer, Nike’s Peach Jam, two weeks ago and was one of the top prospects on the court. NBA scouts and executives got a first look at the 17-year-old who has been hailed as “the next Kevin Durant” as he knocked down tough 3-pointers from anywhere on the court and drew countless double-teams whenever he touched the ball.
“Emoni has a natural feel for the game that you don’t see a lot at this level,” an NBA scout told Yahoo Sports. “His long frame and high release on his jump shot will definitely help him down the road in his career.”
There is not a lot known about Bates’ recruitment. Even with the decision to reclassify, Bates will still have to play two years either in college or the G League, due to his young age. Many speculate that he will join the G League Ignite team alongside elite prospects Jaden Hardy, Michael Foster and Scoot Henderson. Henderson also reclassified up a grade last spring and signed a two-year, $1 million contract with the G League.
“It was the right option for me to grow and develop as a player,” Henderson told Yahoo Sports last month. “To be able to play against pros and work on my game with the NBA spacing, I think it’s going to help me a lot.”
Bates would have to sign a similar two-year deal and play alongside Henderson. Henderson was considered the best guard in his class and the two of them in the backcourt together would bring a lot of fanfare to the G League.
The program manager of the NBA G League's professional path, Rod Strickland, has been spotted at a number of Bates’ games this spring and summer and is also recruiting the best power forward in the class, Jalen Duren.
If Bates does go the college route, Oregon is an interesting fit. For a year he would be playing alongside five-star guard Dior Johnson, who is one of the best playmakers in high school basketball. Memphis’ main draw for recruits is head coach Penny Hardaway. Even with Memphis struggling season after season, Hardaway has produced two first-round picks in his first two seasons — James Wiseman and Precious Achiuwa.
When Bates originally committed to Tom Izzo and Michigan State he said, “I’m not sure what the future holds, but what I do know right now is that I will be committing to Michigan State University.” That’s nowhere close to a 100% commitment, but Izzo is bringing some pieces to play around him with five-star Max Christie and four-stars Jaden Akins and Pierre Brooks coming in this year.
If Bates were to choose the college route, Michigan State is still the favored program. The G League and professional route still makes the most sense even with the NCAA now allowing amateur athletes to make money off their name, image and likeness.
“If I have to go play in college, that’s what I’m going to do,” Bates told Yahoo Sports. “If I can go straight to the league, then that’s what I’m going to do. Of course I want to play in the NBA. That’s been my dream.”
Bates has been in the spotlight since eighth grade and treated like a professional since the age of 15. Two years in the league will give him the training and experience to deal with the off-court side of being a professional. Regardless of his decision, basketball fans will be seeing one of the greatest high school prospects in recent memory a year sooner than expected.
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