Once dubbed “the next KD,” Bates remains without a school for 2022-23. Where does he end up? PIC: Karen Pulfer Focht/AP
You hear the story all too often. Child basketball prodigies seemingly go viral on YouTube, Twitter, and - more recently - TikTok, every single day. But then, even after a star-studded high school or college career, the world unjustly sees them as “failures.”
First, it was Sebastian Telfair. The pride of Brooklyn, Telfair spent his childhood days making buckets and the Surfside Gardens projects in Coney Island. He quickly became one of the most sought-after high school basketball prospects in New York history, and even thrived on the national scale. Yes, he had a solid career as a role player in the NBA, but his Mr. Basketball title in 2004 was the closest he got to championship glory.
Jashaun Agosto didn’t even get that far. Two state championships and a full-ride to LIU Brooklyn wasn’t enough; the world was quick to criticize one of the first basketball player whose tricks & skills were distributed widely on the internet. Agosto finished with a solid mark at LIU; he was lightning-quick with a sharpshooter mentality and a thirst for durability, having been a perennial 1,000-minute player each season. But Agosto never made it to the NBA, despite working out for a few teams and being competitive in the combine.
Note: if you have some time, this is a really good account of Agosto’s rise as a child prodigy.
Now, there are some worried that Emoni Bates will have the same fate.
Bates was widely regarded as a top prospect since his time as a middle schooler in Ypsilanti, Michigan. He was a crucial part of Lincoln High’s championship team when he was a freshman. As a sophomore, he made history, becoming the first second-year player ever to win the Gatorade National Player of the Year award. Scouts were quick to dub Bates as “the next Kevin Durant.”
After a disappointing year at Memphis, the 6-foot-9 wing forward is now the only transfer in the ESPN Top 100 list to not have a home for the upcoming school year. Bates got off to a good start to the season - scoring double-figures in three straight games - but shot less than 39% from the field and had a dismal 0.55 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Bates has been clear he won’t make his decision until mid-June, but with only ten days left in the second quarter, the clock is ticking. A lower back injury put him on the sideline for the last chunk of the regular season, only to play a total of 15 minutes in Memphis’ two tournament games.
Where can Emoni Bates end up? Here are a few potential landing spots.
From the moment Bates announced his intentions to transfer from Memphis, he’s been linked heavily to the Cards. 247Sports’ Travis Branham was clear that Louisville is a major frontrunner for Bates: “Coach Kenny Payne and Louisville - it sounds like they’ve really made an impression on his family,” he said back in May.
Louisville is coming off a year they’d like to forget. After parting ways with Chris Mack, the Cardinals went 13-19 and 6-14 against ACC foes. Now that Louisville has former Knicks assistant Kenny Payne calling the shots this year, he has laid some heavy groundwork in rebuilding the roster, and has been vocal about his desires to bring Bates to Louisville. As the Cardinals look to rebuild, so does Bates - and this could be a match made in heaven for Bates to rebuild his stock against high-quality ACC opponents and a new offensive scheme.
The Wolverines had a roller coaster of a season last year - they went from #4 in the nation, to unranked, to a suspension of its head coach, to the Sweet 16. One thing they lacked consistently was a scorer/ball handler/shot creator hybrid that so many successful teams employ. Bates would be a perfect fit for this role, and could complement a larger Michigan team that is need of some offensive injection. We’ll see if Juwan Howard thinks he can mold him.
Dark Horse: Michigan State
Bates had dreams to play for the Spartans in 7th grade. He told David Goricki of Detroit News that he had a goal to end up with Tom Izzo, and was quick to tell him “I just have to keep working hard on my game and keep good grades” to get there. Is playing just 75 miles away from home a good or bad thing for Bates?
Darker Horse: Oakland
Former Michigan State standout Rocket Watts is suiting up for the Golden Grizzlies, just 30 minutes outside of Detroit. Bates and Watts could be a match made in heaven, but how much 66-year-old Greg Kampe - a 37-year head coach of Oakland - will let them operate?