Former five-star recruit Emoni Bates, considered at an early age to be a prodigious basketball talent, is transferring from Memphis and returning to his home state to play for Eastern Michigan, he announced Wednesday on social media. Bates spent one season at Memphis after reclassifying up and enrolling with the Tigers. The transfer comes after crescendoing speculation about his basketball future, including a possible return to play for Memphis and interest from a number of other high-major suitors. In recent days, Louisville appeared to emerge a real contender.
Bates initially committed to playing in his home state of Michigan at an early age by pledging his allegiance to Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo and his Michigan State program in June 2020. That commitment fizzled in April 2021, leading to a decommitment. His commitment to Memphis next to former No. 1 recruit Jalen Duren, who also reclassified and enrolled, was believed to help the Tigers formulate a super team in the AAC.
A super team never came to fruition and Bates' basketball bonafides -- after once being considered the best prospect in the sport regardless of age -- never quite materialized, either. He averaged 9.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and shot 38.6% from the field and 32.9% from 3-point range. While he spent the stretch run of the season injured, Memphis played like one of the top 10 programs in college hoops.
While it's quite strange to see someone of Bates' caliber and pedigree land at a place like EMU -- again, we're talking about a prospect who was ranked No. 1 in his class and at various points drawing comparisons to Kevin Durant -- his trajectory the last few years suggests it's not a huge surprise. He plateaued as a prospect towards the end of his high school career and struggled with efficiency while at Memphis. He clearly has the size, scoring and physical tools to develop into an NBA star, but he has yet to put it all together in the same way he flashed as an early teenager.
A return to Michigan, playing not for Michigan State nor for Michigan, could be just what Bates needs to rebuild both his game and his credentials as an NBA prospect. He'll join a team that went 10-21 last season and will likely feature him on and off the ball as a clear No. 1 weapon -- something he enjoyed only in spurts at Memphis in part because of a nagging injury -- on a team with relatively low expectations in the MAC.