Bates also announced his plans for his final two years of high school; he will attend a new prep school that his father, Elgin, is opening this fall.
“Coach [Tom] Izzo and Coach [Mike] Garland and that entire MSU staff has been showing love since his seventh-grade year. They’ve been very consistent,” Elgin Bates told ESPN. “They really have a genuine care for him and the family. They care for him, not only as a player, but as a person. That’s really big for us as a family and for him as a player.”
Despite Bates being a potentially generational prospect, Michigan State was the only school to consistently recruit him during his high school career. Izzo was the only high-major head coach to really pursue Bates, going to his games and staying in contact. June 15 was the first day college coaches could call rising high school juniors — and the Spartans were the only program to reach out to Bates.
“They get all my respect, really,” Emoni Bates said. “I love how they coach, Coach Izzo, I like how they focus on defense more than offense. That’s a big key in basketball, and people don’t understand that. On and off the court, he has passion. He’s just an amazing guy, overall.”
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 ESPN recruiting database started in 2007.
“He loves the guys on campus, he loves even the cheering section, the student section,” Elgin Bates said. “[Izzo] is a great guy. Every time I see him, we have great conversations. It’s always more knowledge that he adds to my tool belt. I’m pleased to be around a guy like Coach Izzo and be able to sponge up knowledge and wisdom from a guy like that.”
When asked what he likes about Michigan State, Emoni Bates responded: “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 class of 2022 and is also considered the best prospect in the country regardless of class. When ESPN polled more than a dozen grassroots basketball experts last summer about the best high school prospect since LeBron James, Bates finished in a tie for third, behind Kevin Durant and Greg Oden.
In April, Bates native became the first sophomore to be named the Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year. As a high school freshman, Bates led Lincoln High (Ypsilanti, Michigan) to its first state championship, then led it to a 19-3 record and a spot in the District 18 state tournament final against Ann Arbor Huron. That game was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Bates plays on the Nike EYBL circuit for the BATES Fundamentals program coached by his father. Last summer at the Nike Peach Jam, Bates averaged 32.2 points and 10.0 rebounds.
His light recruitment could be attributed to the expectation that Bates would never play college basketball, instead going straight to the NBA. But after the 2022 draft looked like the target date to change the one-and-done rule, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said in April that talks to eliminate one-and-done have been put on hold and might not pick up for a few years.
As a result, Bates’ chances of playing college basketball have grown. A number of top prospects in the 2020 class, including No. 1 prospect Jalen Green, decided to join the new G League pathway program instead of going to college, but Bates didn’t seem attracted to that option.
“It’s good for certain players. That’s a lot of money,” he said. “… I don’t think I’ll do it. It’s good for some people, but I don’t think I’ll head that route.”
Bates added that he would rather play college basketball than go to the G League.
There could be the option to reclassify after next year into the 2021 class and then do a postgraduate year before entering the NBA draft in 2022 if the age limit changes. Bates and his father confirmed reclassifying was on the table, but it hasn’t been decided yet.
“I don’t plan on reclassifying. I’ll probably play two more years [of high school],” Bates said. “It really depends how this year goes. After this year, it will tell me everything I need to know. I can’t decide on that right now. After this year, if it’s too easy, I might — but if not, I’m probably going to play another year.”
“Anything is possible right now,” Elgin Bates said. “By the end of his junior year, he will be in position to graduate. We don’t know yet. It’s up to him, it’s a day-by-day thing for him. It might be a decision he decides to make later on.”
The one guarantee in Bates’ future is where he will attend high school in the fall. Elgin is opening up a prep school run as a satellite campus to Aim High Academy in Michigan. He told ESPN that all the classes are NCAA certified and approved.
They plan on playing a national schedule against the best high school teams in the country, including Montverde Academy and IMG in Florida, and they’re recruiting some of Bates’ AAU teammates and other talented prospects from around the nation. Javaughn Hannah, another 2022 prospect, is expected to attend the school, as is high-major center Shawn Phillips and five-star guard Dillon Hunter of Atlanta.
Those three players attended a team event in Ypsilanti on Saturday.
“I felt that it was time for us to do something different for Emoni,” Elgin Bates said. “He’s in a different situation right now. For him, his goal is to always continue to get better. I felt that right now would be the time to make a decision for him to get out and play a national schedule and continue to stay hungry and continue to play against the upper echelon of high school talent.”
The basketball team, which is likely to be sponsored by Nike, will be coached by Elgin; Corey Tucker, who coaches with Elgin on the AAU circuit; and longtime Michigan high school coach Jerry Ernst.
Elgin Bates said he planned to continue to operate the school after his son completes high school.
“We definitely want to control the narrative,” he said. “That way you can see who’s trying to penetrate the wall, basically control your whole environment. The guys that don’t have the best interests of the kids, they just want to make a name or be an attachment. It’s so distasteful to me. Let us all just control this whole thing, keep the circle super tight and small.”
“It feels real good,” Emoni said. “Because it’s like my hometown. I didn’t really want to leave yet, so it’s going to feel good to put on for my hometown.”