Michigan basketball prepares for showdown with Emoni Bates, Eastern Michigan

Two years ago, Emoni Bates seemed destined to play a basketball game at Little Caesars Arena at some point in the 2022-23 season.

But the thought then was it would happen in the NBA.

The former No. 1 overall prospect in the class of 2021 will play at the home of the Detroit Pistons on Friday evening, but will do so in his first regular season appearance as a member of Eastern Michigan in a clash with Michigan basketball.

Bates scored 27 points in his EMU debut in the exhibition game against Grand Valley State on Nov. 3, but was held out of EMU's regular season opener, a 75-66 win over Wayne State, for undisclosed reasons. He is expected to play against the Wolverines on Friday.

"A great scorer like Emoni, you just got to try to do your best to make him work hard for every bucket," Michigan coach Juwan Howard said Thursday. "Knowing there will be a lot of sets they run for him, he's going to touch the ball every time down the floor because of his skill set."

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A star at Ypsilanti Lincoln before transferring to play at Ypsi Prep — the basketball program started by his father — Bates committed to Michigan State, decommitted, then reclassified and went through a trying freshman season at Memphis where he averaged 9.7 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. This offseason, he transferred back home to play at EMU.

Less than two months before the season was scheduled to start, Bates was pulled over for running a stop sign and the deputies later discovered he had an illegal firearm and marijuana while diving without a license.

He was arrested and charged with two gun-related felonies and originally pled not guilty before he accepted a plea deal for a misdemeanor which will result in up to two years probation and a up to a $2,500 fine.

No matter his path to LCA on Friday, Howard said Bates' talent remains evident and added that just about everybody on U-M's perimeter is going to take a crack at slowing down the first five-star prospect to ever play in the MAC.

"Give him credit, the young man worked extremely hard on his skill set," he said. "He shows he has a lot of love for the game of basketball and when you have a passion to play the game of basketball, you don't have to beg a person like Emoni to get in the gym.

"I've just enjoyed watching him over the years and how he's gotten better each year."

Memphis guard Emoni Bates shoots against Southern Methodist at FedExForum in Memphis on Jan. 20, 2022.
Memphis guard Emoni Bates shoots against Southern Methodist at FedExForum in Memphis on Jan. 20, 2022.

The Wolverines kicked the tires on Bates joining their program this offseason. When Caleb Houstan and Moussa Diabate both declared for the NBA draft and Frankie Collins (Arizona State) and Brandon Johns (VCU) both transferred out, additional roster spots opened up.

Michigan was rumored to be one of the potential destinations for Bates, which Howard acknowledged with a caveat.

"We looked at him," Howard said. "But I really love the team that we have here today."

Howard said his team is looking forward to the neutral site game, something it did last season with the exhibition against Wayne State.

"I think it's great to get an opportunity to play at Little Caesars Arena and our young men getting a chance to see where the Detroit Pistons play," he said. "Michigan fans that live in Detroit can come to the game and see us in person, I think that's pretty cool.

"I know our guys are going to really enjoy the atmosphere once we step foot in the arena."

Contact Tony Garcia at Follow him on Twitter at @realtonygarcia.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan basketball vs. Emoni Bates: EMU star 1st test for Wolverines