It’s arguable that Emoni Bates is the best forthcoming NBA Draft prospect even though won’t be allowed to enter the pros next year. And, yes, that would mean we’re talking about a 17-year-old prodigy who just committed to Memphis. Bates had cut his final list down to Memphis, Oregon, Michigan State, and the G League Ignite team before selecting the Tigers.
Emoni Bates will join fellow elite prospect Jalen Duren to play alongside head coach Penny Hardaway (and now, assistant coach Rasheed Wallace!) at the University of Memphis, who will bring forward one of the nation’s most intriguing combinations in college basketball. Bates was originally a top prospect in the Class of 2022, but reclassified to 2021. Because he was born in 2004, he will not be eligible for the NBA Draft until 2023. It doesn’t mean we’ll definitely get two years at Memphis either, but we’ll know he’ll at least be there for 2021-22. Hopefully we’ll get more than three games out of him, too.
How closely you follow basketball will determine how familiar you are with Bates’ game, but many of you are still being introduced to the young phenom, and that’s OK. He’s a 6-foot-9, roughly 200-pound swing man who likely will rotate between both forward positions. He’s a Michigan native who had been gaining traction as a national star since very early in his development. Last year he became the first high school sophomore to win the boy’s basketball Gatorade National Player of the Year Award. (He became the second sophomore overall to achieve the honor after UConn women’s basketball commit Azzi Fudd did so in 2019.) He’s become a social media star along the way, and is widely believed to be a possible No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick when he does eventually enter. Bates’ decision also launched Memphis into the top 10 of CBS Sports’ Top 25 And 1 poll, for what that’s worth.
Along with Bates and Duren, Memphis will also welcome fellow high-level recruits Johnathan Lawson and Josh Minott. Even with their youth, they’ll likely be one of the top teams in the country and in the national championship conversation for at least the start of it, with the ability for them to remain their all way on the high-end. And individually, Bates has all the tools to help lead Memphis to exceptional winning through however long his stay is, but the important thing is that he’s far from alone, and won’t even be the team’s best player on some nights.
Bates is No. 3 on the ESPN 100 (which isn’t perfect, but gives you a good ballpark) while Duren is right there at No. 7. The previously mentioned Lawson and Minott are No. 63 and No. 70, respectively. Bates and Duren were also AAU teammates with Team Final this year and saw tremendous success there. The elite prospects won the Southern Jamfest in Hampton, Va., in May, followed by the Nike Peach Jam in South Carolina last month. Duren, like Bates, had also reclassified and chose Memphis; Bates is following him along, and for good reason.
The season will begin before you know it. Until then, watch highlights. Lots and lots of highlights.