Emoni Bates scores 63 points and captures 21 rebounds in Ypsilanti Lincoln’s 108-102 double overtime victory over Chelsea on Tuesday February 18, 2020.
Detroit Free Press
It was the end of the first quarter in a match at the end of February. Ypsilanti Lincoln led Jackson, 11-6 – a surprisingly close match, given that Jackson was 7-11.
But the second quarter started, and it looked like 6’9-inch second-year star Emoni Bates wanted to end the game as soon as possible. He crossed the track and converted a game of 3 points. He grabbed offensive rebounds and scored, then hit a 3 pointer from the NBA range.
He follows this with a stuttering dribble to walk past a defender and into the basket. When a teammate missed a shot, Bates grabbed the rebound and quickly passed the ball over his head. When the teammate missed again, Bates canceled the shot and scored.
At halftime, Bates – who only scored three points in the first quarter – had 20 points, and Lincoln was off to a good 67-44 victory.
It was the kind of effort you’d see him driving Lincoln to a second consecutive Division 1 state championship.
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Emoni Bates of Ypsilanti Lincoln is defended by Dylan Studstill of Ann Arbor Huron during the first half of the UEM convening center in Ypsilanti, Tuesday March 3, 2020. (Photo: Junfu Han, Detroit Free Press)
But then came the 64-54 defeat Tuesday against Ann Arbor Huron (19-1) in front of more than 4,000 people at the Eastern Michigan’s Convocation Center. He scored 31 points, but missed his first seven shots and finished 8 of 27.
It was a different season for Bates. He averages 31.6 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.6 assists, but it’s no longer enough that Lincoln wins easily.
“Last year he was fortunate to have a group of seniors around him, and three of them were roughly three-year-old beginners,” said Ypsilanti High coach Steve Brooks. Three weeks ago, his team brought Lincoln into overtime before losing, 67-60; Bates scored 40 points.
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Three days before that, he had 63 points and 21 rebounds in a double overtime victory over Chelsea.
“It is a growing process,” he said. “I’m trying to go out there and improve them so they are ready for district time.”
Emoni Bates of Ypsilanti Lincoln checks against Julian Lewis of Ann Arbor Huron during the first half at the UEM Convocation Center in Ypsilanti, Tuesday March 3, 2020. (Photo: Junfu Han, Detroit Free Press)
It starts Monday at the EMU (if its male or female teams organize a MAC eliminatory match, the district matches will be in Saline). The salt flats are the hardest in D-1, but Bates says he knows what’s coming.
“Certainly,” he said. “I have been through it for a year already, so I know how it goes.”
In fact, he fondly remembers how the two regional games went.
“Back to back buzzer drummers,” he said.
He did not mention that he was the one who marked the two winners, which caused the students to rush to the ground.
There was another buzzer-beater in the state championship game, but it was Jalen Fisher senior who grabbed an offensive rebound with two seconds left and hit the jumper.
In the final, Bates had 23 points, six rebounds and three less blocks of ideal health.
“It was great, but I was sick for the championship game,” he said. “I got out of it, but the next day I had strep throat. I couldn’t breathe. “
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Basketball fans had assumed last season was the only one in which Bates would play high school ball in the state.
They are right knew he would spend his next three years in a preparatory school.
Emoni Bates of Ypsilanti Lincoln versus Brandon Rawls of Ann Arbor Huron during the first half at the UEM Convocation Center in Ypsilanti, Tuesday March 3, 2020. (Photo: Junfu Han, Detroit Free Press)
Yet it is there. And now some fans think he will be in a preparatory school next year.
“I’m not going anywhere,” said Bates.
A theory that gained ground after Sports Illustrated devoted its cover at the end of October on Bates: he will spend three years in high school, will graduate a year earlier, will spend a year playing in college, then enter the draft of the NBA.
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“No, not really,” said Bates. “I expect to be in high school every four years.”
A few weeks ago, former NBA player Kendrick Perkins discussed the single NBA rule on ESPN’s “The Jump”. “I know a child right now, I know a child right now who is (16) years old and who is a second year student by the name of Emoni Bates and if he wanted to declare himself for the draft this summer, he would be a lottery choice. Fingers in the nose. “
Emoni Bates watches during Michigan State against Maryland on February 15, 2020, at the Breslin Center in East Lansing. (Photo: Nick King / Lansing State Journal)
Milton Barnes is the Jackson High coach, and the Saginaw native may have the best resume to discuss Bates’ NBA readiness.
He spent 25 years as Division I Head or Assistant Coach. He was also the head coach of Ligue D (now Ligue G) and a NBA scout for 10 years.
He thinks Perkins’ statement that Bates would participate in the lottery was irresponsible.
“It’s a stretch,” said Barnes. “It would be a first round pick. A lot of time you write about the potential. It has all the tools you would think it can be at this high level. This is projected onto the road. He’s not going to be a LeBron James and come in and be an instant hit. “
Barnes thinks Bates can eventually become a great NBA player, but that will take time and commitment, especially in the weight room.
Bates, who weighs 180 pounds, admitted that he doesn’t spend much time in the weight room.
Emoni Bates reacts after a dunk against Novi Catholic Central during the fourth quarter during the regional final of March 7, 2019. (Photo: Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press)
“A little, but not really,” he said. “I’m not really focused on this. I’m not going to force anything.”
Ultimately, his overall strength will determine where he will begin his professional career.
“He would go there and play and he would be beaten there too,” said Barnes of the G League. “Professional gaming is more physical than people think. They just see the entertainment side, but when all is said and done, on a professional level, it is a physical game. “
NBA player Bates is most compared to Kevin Durant, and Barnes does not argue. Not only are they remarkably thin, but there are similarities in the way they play.
“The child can handle the ball, he can shoot it, and this level of skill at his age is just phenomenal,” said Barnes. “He is way above anyone in terms of pure talent, without equaling all intangible assets. He is better than anyone in the state.”
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The interesting thing about Bates is that he takes it all in stride. When people heard what Perkins said about him, they all had an opinion.
With Bates, he seemed to go in one ear and come out of the other.
“It’s a good compliment,” he said, “but I’m only focusing on what I’m doing right now.”
Right now, he’s rewriting the standard for second-year students in the state. He spends countless hours in the gymnasium with his father, E.J., who runs the Bates Academy and trains young basketball players.
E.J. didn’t spend much time thinking about Perkins’ comments.
“Let’s look at the reality of this,” E.J. told me. “We walk at the gates of Ypsi Lincoln every morning. We’re still in high school, son, we’re not there yet, we haven’t accomplished anything yet, we still have to pass this season. “
Brooks, in the Ypsilanti Archipelago, knows the progress Bates has made better than most.
“What he has a lot of this year is the instinct to really understand when the blow is really a big blow,” he said. “Last year, he was very emotional. He really understands when to get a little better this year. “
Bates knew he had to shoot in the overtime game with Ypsilanti, and that’s exactly what he did.
“He had 40 on us and he needed all 40 and he had all 40,” said Brooks with a laugh. “I told my children in overtime that he was going to try to impose his will, and in the end, he still succeeded.”
In Ann Arbor Huron’s victory, Bates was always the defense focal point.
“He is unstoppable, he is not guardable,” said Huron coach Waleed Samaha. “We did the best we could and he still has 31. I don’t know if we can defend him better.”
Bates got a hit with the movies. It was a trip to the basket where he somehow twisted his body to avoid the defender and picked up the ball under the defender’s arm and in the basket.
“The one below was crazy,” said Samaha, shaking his head. “My child came over to the sidelines and said,” Coach, I tried to smear him. He got out of my way. ”
Starting Monday, Bates hopes to lead Lincoln to eight straight wins and the state title. But he knows this season is different.
“I think we are a better team in terms of skills,” he said. “But last year’s team had seniors. They had already finished high school, so they already knew how to get through it.
“But now I’m growing as a player and I’m becoming more of a leader.”
Mick McCabe is a longtime former Detroit Free Press columnist. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @ mickmccabe1.