Emoni Bates, widely regarded as the best prospect for high school in over a decade, declared on Monday his dedication to Michigan State.
Bates also announced his plans for his final two years of high school; he’ll attend a new preparatory school which his father, Elgin, will open this fall.
“Coach [Tom] Izzo and Coach [Mike] Garland and all the MSU staff have been loving since his seventh year. They’ve been really consistent,” Elgin Bates said to ESPN. “They ‘re really looking after him and the family. They ‘re looking after him, not only as a player, but as a person. That’s really important for us as a family and as a player.”
Emoni Bates’ play and transcendent talent at such a young age has drawn comparisons to Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James. Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire
While Bates was a possible generational talent, Michigan State was the only school to target him regularly during his high school career. Izzo was the only big high-level head coach to actively follow Bates, go to his games and keep in touch. The first day college coaches could call up high school juniors on June 15 — and the Spartans were the only team to reach out to Bates.
“Really, they are getting all my attention,” said Emoni Bates. “I appreciate how they play, Play Izzo, I like how they concentrate more on defense than offense. That’s a major difference in basketball, and people don’t realize that. He has a passion on and off the field. He’s just an incredible person in general.”
Bates is the first five-star prospect to commit to Michigan State since Jaren Jackson in 2017, and is the first No. 1 prospect to commit to the Spartans since the launch of the 2007 ESPN recruiting database.
“He loves the on-campus people, including the cheering group, the group of the students,” Elgin Bates said. “[Izzo] is a nice person. We have great talks every time I see him. It’s just more information that he adds to my tool belt. I ‘m grateful to be around a man like Coach Izzo and to be able to soak up knowledge and insight from such a person.”
Emoni Bates replied when asked what he likes about Michigan State: “Everything.”
Bates, a 6-foot-9 wing with a smooth offensive game and elite shooting ability, is ranked No . 1 in the ESPN 60 for the 2022 class, and is also considered the country’s best prospect regardless of class. Last summer, when ESPN asked over a dozen grassroots basketball experts on the best prospect in high school since LeBron James, Bates finished in a tie for third, behind Kevin Durant and Greg Oden.
Bates native was the first sophomore named the Gatorade National Boys of the Year’s Basketball Player in April. Bates led Lincoln High (Ypsilanti, Michigan) to her first state championship as a high school freshman, then led her to a 19-3 record and a spot in the final of the District 18 state tournament against Ann Arbor Huron. The game was cancelled because of the pandemic coronavirus.
Bates plays for BATES Fundamentals program coached by his father on the Nike EYBL circuit. Bates had averaged 32.2 points and 10.0 rebounds at the Nike Peach Jam last summer.
His light recruitment may be due to the belief that, instead of going straight to the NBA, Bates will never play college basketball. But after the 2022 draft seemed like the target date to amend the one-and-done rule, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN said in April that negotiations have been put on hold to abolish one-and-done and might not pick up for a couple of years.
As a result, the chances of Bates playing basketball at college have increased. A number of top prospects in the 2020 class, including Jalen Green’s No. 1 prospect, opted to join the new G League pathway system instead of heading to college, but Bates did not seem to be drawn to that.
“For some players it is fantastic. That’s a lot of money,” he said. “I don’t think I’m going to do that. It’s nice for other men, but I don’t think I’m going to go that way.”
Emoni Bates added that he would prefer to play basketball in college, rather than go to the G League.
There may be an opportunity to reclassify into the 2021 class after next year, and then do a postgraduate year before joining the 2022 NBA draft if the age limit increases. Bates and his father indicated that reclassification has been on the table but it has not yet been determined.
“I’m not going to reclassify. I’m definitely playing two more [high school] years,” Bates said. “Everything just depends on how this year goes. It will tell me what I need to know after this year. I can’t decide about that right now. If it’s too convenient after this year, I might — but if not, I’ll still be playing another year.”
“At this moment, everything is possible,” Elgin Bates said. “He’ll be in a position to graduate by the end of his junior year. We don’t know yet. It’s up to him, it’s a day-to-day thing for him.
In the future of Emoni Bates one guarantee is where he will attend high school in the fall. Elgin is opening a preparatory school run as a satellite campus for the Michigan-based Aim High Academy. He told ESPN all classes are accredited and approved by NCAA.
They expect to play a regional schedule against the country’s top high school teams like Montverde Academy and IMG, and recruit some of the Bates’ AAU teammates and other young prospects from around the nation. Javaughn Hannah, another prospect of 2022, is expected to attend school, as is Shawn Phillips High Major Center and Atlanta’s Dillon Hunter Five-Star Guard.
On Saturday, those three players attended a team event at Ypsilanti.
“I think it was time we were doing something special for Emoni,” said Elgin Bates. “He’s in a different situation right now. His goal for him is to keep getting better at all times. I felt that right now would be the time to make a decision to get him out and play a national schedule and stay hungry and continue to play against the upper echelon of high school talent.”
The basketball team, which Adidas is expected to sponsor, will be coached by Elgin; Corey Tucker, who plays on the AAU circuit with Emoni Bates; and Jerry Ernst, former Michigan high school coach.
Elgin Bates said he expects to start running the school until his son finishes high school.
“We certainly want the narrative to be managed,” he said. “This way you can see who’s trying to reach the wall, actually control the whole world. The ones who don’t have the best interests of the kids, they just want to make a reputation or be an obstacle. It’s so distasteful to me. Just let us all control this whole thing, keep the circle close and small.”
“It is feeling very good,” said Emoni. “And it’s like my hometown. I didn’t really want to leave yet, but putting on for my hometown would feel good.”
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