Emoni Bates Rumors
In most cases it’s either difficult, irresponsible or both to say anything definitive about the future of any 15-year-old, basketball player or otherwise. In the case of Emoni Bates, decidedly the next anointed high school star, whose past several months of play have left the hoops industry buzzing, those tenets still ought to apply. Yet Bates and his undeniable gifts for scoring the ball have found a way to transcend caution in the minds of many who know better, and the more you sit and watch him, the more it feels like you’re watching something. He’s certainly earned the top spot in the high school class of 2022, and in a couple years, when the NBA has re-opened its doors to a new preps-to-pros generation, Bates may well be the face of it.
His early trials have been well-publicized by college recruiting sites and breathlessly quoted in anonymity by awestruck scouts, but for the unindoctrinated, Bates, a 6’8” guard from Ypsilanti, Mich., has been crowned by many as the best NBA prospect since LeBron James (or Kevin Durant, depending how you feel). He faced arguably the stiffest test of his fledgling career last week at the Nike Skills Academy in Thousand Oaks. Bates was the youngest player and only rising sophomore in attendance at the prestigious camp, which brings together the most promising prospects from the sneaker giant’s youth circuit and throws them into drills and scrimmages for NBA scouts to evaluate and pick apart. After playing in his own 15-under age group all summer, Bates held his own in a key proving ground against older players and stronger bodies, though not without some ups and downs. And while you can hedge and qualify everything while trying to guess at the future, it’s now impossible to deny the fact that Bates is on the way.
NBA franchises are already positioning themselves for the chance to cash in on all the talent. The sweetener for the 2022 draft is the allure of expected No. 1 overall pick Emoni Bates. He’s a rising sophomore in Michigan who is already considered the country’s best NBA prospect, regardless of age. Expect Bates to become the face of the newest prep-to-pro age, just like Kevin Garnett was a generation ago. “From a talent perspective,” Evans said, “Emoni is one of the best freshmen the industry has seen in the last decade.”
Whether Bates goes to the NBA in 2022 or later, it’s only a matter of time. In the meantime, his recruitment remains in a strange netherworld, with only a handful of colleges following him. “There’s been talks about [the one-and-done rule] for years, so do we make that a priority to really think about it?” Elgin said. “No, we just continue to work and continue to get better because say 2022 the year of the rules possibly changing, say it doesn’t change.
“He’s like Kobe,” one assistant coach on hand said Thursday. “He has a killer mentality. If he has a bad game, he’ll tell his dad to take him to the gym and work on his ball-handling, shooting. “Once his body grows, wow, it’s going to be interesting.”
If it seems like we’re getting ahead of ourselves, well, that’s the game. College coaches scout Bates’ games regularly, but so do NBA teams now, as the league and its players’ union appear poised to remove the age restriction on players declaring for the draft.