Once upon a time, Emoni Bates was the biggest name in amateur basketball. Little has gone according to plan since then, but that doesn't mean he can't play like a future superstar at times.
Bates, now suiting up for Eastern Michigan, showed off his potential Tuesday by posting 29 straight points for the Eagles in a conference game against Toledo. In the process of going supernova, he made seven 3-pointers and chipped in a couple of dunks:
Bates finished with 43 points on 15-of-23 shooting (9-of-14 from 3-point range) and seven rebounds.
Few MAC games garner interest from the NBA, but at least one notable figure was impressed by Bates' display: Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, who has praised Bates since his high school days.
James isn't the only NBA star to take note of Bates, as he has also drawn attention from Kevin Durant since transferring from Memphis. Bates was compared to both players during the apex of his high school career.
Emoni Bates is trying to find a new path to the NBA
Bates made history in 2020 when he became the first sophomore to be named the national Gatorade Player of the Year, an award previously received by the likes of Jayson Tatum, Karl-Anthony Towns, Bradley Beal and, yes, James, who won it twice.
For a while, it appeared Bates could lead a new generation of prep-to-pro players, but he instead reclassified and landed with Penny Hardaway's Memphis program as part of a historically good recruiting class.
Bates' career as a Tiger wasn't exactly stellar. At 17 years old, he was the youngest player in college basketball and struggled to keep pace with his peers. In a freshman year limited by injuries, he averaged 9.7 points per game while shooting a rough 38.6% from the field. It was a bad year for Memphis overall, but the Tigers notably went 10-2 in games without Bates and 12-9 with him.
That season ended with Bates entering the transfer portal and heading to Eastern Michigan, located in his hometown of Ypsilanti, Michigan. That tenure got off to a brutal start when he was arrested on gun charges in September, but he eventually apologized and pleaded down to a misdemeanor.
On the court, Bates has looked more like a top recruit for the Eagles. He entered Tuesday averaging a team-high 19.3 points and 5.6 rebounds while shooting 34.4% from deep. Granted, those numbers are against worse competition and for a team that entered the game 4-15, but Tuesday showed that there is still a bit of star left in a player once considered a lock for NBA success.