BLOOMINGTON — Much of the Assembly Hall crowd rose to its feet as Tamar Bates made the long walk across the court toward the Indiana bench. Late in the second half of IU’s expected domination of Jackson State, the sophomore guard had a career-high 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting and four assists.
He stopped next to coach Mike Woodson next to the bench, speaking briefly before Woodson gave him a slap on the back of his head. Having led the charge in another methodical Hoosier dismantling of a non-conference opponent, Bates cracked a smile as he walked down a line of teammates.
The Bates that exited the court was the one Woodson saw in practice when the team assembled over the summer, the athletic guard who could score inside and out while contributing on defense. For at least one afternoon, an IU opponent experienced that version of Bates, too.
“He finally had a breakout game,” Woodson said. “I’m not surprised or shocked. When we started this journey with this team five months ago, he was probably one of our best players playing. Tonight he kind of put it all together.”
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Last season, Bates spent Thanksgiving away from home for the first time. Friday, his family was in attendance for his career game, including his infant daughter, seeing her dad play for the second time.
Her birth over a year ago put a lot on Bates' plate in a short period of time. He was unexpectedly a first-time dad trying to juggle fatherhood with the commitments of a Division I basketball player. It forced him to grow up quickly.
He began his second year at IU more confident and more comfortable speaking on the court.
“He came in with a different attitude,” point guard Xavier Johnson said. “He grew up a lot. He matured.”
The difference showed in a game for the first time Friday. After averaging 3.9 points per game as a freshman, Bates contributed 5.8 off the bench through the Hoosiers’ first five games. He didn’t take more than six shots in any.
Against Jackson State, he scored at every level. He muscled up smaller players to get inside and finish. He found space to knock down shots from midrange. He buried four of his six attempts from 3-point territory.
It was a complete performance from the four-star prospect who entered college with all the physical tools to contribute. The non-conference schedule toughens up soon. No. 1 North Carolina comes to town Wednesday, and Big Ten play starts shortly after that.
“This summer, you know, he accepted what he was going through, which he had no choice, and he started to grow up,“ Woodson said. “And these five months that we've been together after coming back, you know, he has shown some signs of maturity. We're going to need that from him because he can make shots, and he can do things from an offensive standpoint that I want him to do.”
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Indiana basketball: Tamar Bates leads Hoosiers over Jackson State