Emoni Bates is a 6-foot-9 16-year-old and is the best high school basketball player in the country regardless of class. He has been hailed as “the next LeBron” because of his skills and the way he easily dominates while being built more like Kevin Durant.
In his sophomore season, the Ypsilanti, Michigan, native averaged 32.4 points, nine rebounds and three assists per game. In two years of high school basketball, he has scored an astonishing 1,343 points. From the first time scouts and college coaches saw him play as an eighth grader, the consensus was the same: Bates is a pro and most likely won’t be going to college.
“The first time I saw him play, it took me a total of five seconds to realize this kid is not going to college. And I still think that’s true regardless of his verbal commitment to Michigan State,” a Power Five assistant coach told Yahoo Sports.
Which is why it was surprising when Bates, the gem of the Class of 2022, announced Monday on ESPN that he’s committing to in-state power Michigan State. “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,” Bates said.
Draymond’s reaction to top prospect Emoni Bates committing to Michigan State.— Ali Thanawalla (@Ali_Thanawalla) June 29, 2020
(Via Draymond Green’s IG) pic.twitter.com/V9nX5lWDSk
Michigan State fans across the country celebrated for a player who isn’t slated to don a Spartans uniform for two years. But the question remains: Will he even set foot on campus? There is about a 20 percent chance that happens.
Bates is a young incoming junior who just turned 16 in January. Some say this announcement means he will reclassify and get to college a year earlier. If this happens, Bates would still have to play two years at Michigan State because he wouldn’t turn 19 in time for his NBA draft cutoff date. In the era of one-and-dones — and with Bates potentially being the best prospect of the past decade — playing two years at Michigan State doesn’t make sense.
Also announced on Monday was the opening of Ypsi Prep Academy, where Bates will attend and play for his father, E.J. Bates. The state of Michigan has strict rules and guidelines for public schools about attending and taking money for athletic events. Prep schools do not apply this rule. Bates will be the hottest ticket in town the next two years and if the name, image and likeness rule passes, he could make a lot of money in high school and won’t need the marketing platform of playing at Michigan State.
But just for kicks, let’s pretend that Bates does play one or two years in a green and white uniform. The ripple effects in the recruiting world have already started. Izzo has missed out on key prospects the past few years. The Spartans were in the top three for NBA potential first-rounders Isaiah Stewart and Vernon Carey Jr. last year but didn’t land them. Stewart chose Washington and Carey Jr. played one year at Duke.
Michigan State already has a solid commitment from four-star wing Pierre Brooks for the 2021 class and is in good shape with five-star shooting guard Max Christie. Some top players in Bates’ true recruiting class have already started to take notice of his commitment and wouldn’t mind playing alongside him. Enoch Boakye is a 6-foot-10 center out of Canada and has a handful of offers from high-major programs like Michigan State, Arizona, Texas Tech and others.
“There are a lot of benefits and perks that come with teaming up with a star like Emoni, but at the end of the day, I’m going to do what’s best for me and what school fits my playing style,” Boakye told Yahoo Sports. “It’s definitely something to consider.”
Michigan State wasted no time in reaching out to Boakye, texting and calling him after Bates’ announcement earlier this week. “They just reached out and wanted to see what I thought about his commitment and how I would feel playing alongside him,” Boakye added.
Michigan State fans should embrace the slim chance that Bates will play in East Lansing. Bates and MSU will now be tied together for the foreseeable future, and that is a positive for Izzo and his program. The G League Select Team is also an option for Bates. He and his family will no doubt be watching to see how potential 2021 No. 1 pick Jalen Green does this year for the Select Team, as well as the performances of fellow five-stars Daishen Nix and Isaiah Todd.
The goal for Bates remains the same. He’s trying to get to the NBA as soon as possible, and we’ll have to wait and see what he decides. “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 told Yahoo Sports.
More from Yahoo Sports: