Eastern Michigan’s men’s basketball team has not participated in an NCAA tournament since 1998, but after the program hooked a player compared to Kevin Durant on the cover of Sports Illustrated, Ypsilant has reason to be optimistic.
Emoni Bates, a native of Ypsilanti, announced on Wednesday (June 29th) that he moved to Eastern Michigan. After disappointing a freshman in Memphis, he will be suitable for the Eagles for the 2022-23 season.
Several national writers have spilled ink on the news, noting the fall of Bates. After all, he was the number 1 player in his class for several years, and most assumed he would become the NBA’s best draft pick once he got the right one. His shares began to fall at the end of his high school career, and last summer he reclassified by joining the 2021 class. (He was still one of the top five recruits.)
In Memphis 6 feet 9 Bates appeared in 18 games, averaging 23.4 minutes, 9.7 points and 3.3 rebounds. He knocked 39 percent off the field and 33 percent out of 3. He missed part of the season due to injury, and Memphis played better without him.
However, many recruitment analysts, college coaches and NBA scouts could not be completely wrong about Bates. He remains an exciting combination of size and craftsmanship, and he won’t turn 19 until the end of January.
As MLive reported after it named Michigan one of its possible transition points, Wolverine may not have been interested. Recently, there were reports that Louisville, another Bates finalist, had retreated. His commitment remains a major coup for Eastern Michigan, which has not led recruits to the top 100 since the creation of the 247sports database in 2003.
Can the Eagles compete for the Central American Conference (MAC) title next season? They didn’t even appear in the MAC tournament championship after winning it in 98. Five years have passed since their last winning season. Last year, they finished 10-21 (5-15 in the MAC), the first as head coach Stan Heath.
Heath, who previously served as the college’s head coach in Kent, Arkansas and South Florida, came to Eastern Michigan from League G, where he was coach of the year in 2021.
While Bates is the latest and brightest addition to the list, Heath has been busy this offseason. Jalin Billingsley moved to Georgetown after one season. Becoming a high school student, he finished second in Ohio in basketball. Legend Guitar, a former River Rouge star, arrived from Providence, where last season he was in a red shirt as a true freshman.
Tyson Akaf of Detroit Cass Tech was a finalist for Mr. Basketball, who has played the last two seasons at Duquesne since 16 games last year. Another local player, Orlando Lovejoy (of Summit Academy North in Romulus), will be a freshman, like Joey Sacher, of Powers Catholic in Flint.
Eastern Michigan has lost several of its players in rotation since last season, but returns its top scorer and distributor, playing Noah Farahan.
Whether the renewed list headed by Bates will be enough to fight for the conference title remains to be seen. Bates, playing for Lincoln High School, had many memorable games and what was then called the University of Eastern Michigan Convocation Center. Maybe he will be able to revive this magic in the same building with a new name?
This would not be the first time Eastern Michigan has brought a talented transfer that has won a major victory. George Gervin came to Ypsilant for two seasons after a brief stay in Long Beach, California and led Eastern Michigan to the NAIA National Championship game in 1971 and the Four Division II final the following year. The East Michigan Arena is now named after Gervin.
It is very unfair to compare Bates or anyone really to Eisen, one of the greatest basketball players of all time. If Bates, however, is able to realize part of the potential that made him such a highly touted prospect, the Eagles could raise their eyebrows this season. Just by landing Bates, they are already there.