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MSU's latest commit: Emoni Bates

Breaking down the 16-year-old's options in basketball, and the impact he can have at MSU

June 30, 2020
<p>The Breslin Student Events Center photographed on Aug. 23, 2019. </p>

The Breslin Student Events Center photographed on Aug. 23, 2019.

Photo by Matt Zubik | The State News

After years of recruiting disappointments with guys like Jabari Parker and Vernon Carey Jr, Tom Izzo finally got his guy when he landed the top prospect from the 2022 high school graduating class Emoni Bates. That description of Bates probably does not do him justice considering the 16-year-old from Ypsilanti, Michigan is one of just seven players to receive a perfect rating by 247Sports, joining the likes of LeBron James, Dwight Howard and Greg Oden.

Gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated last fall, Bates has been receiving recognition for some time now. With the interest level of James and the skill set of a young Kevin Durant, Bates has the chance to change the landscape of college basketball.

If he ever sets foot on the Breslin Center's floor, that is.

There still are many options for Bates despite his commitment to Michigan State — so what does all of this mean for MSU and Tom Izzo? Let’s break it down.


The NBA G-League has now created a team that will play against other G-League teams in exhibitions to receive mentorship and the ability to earn up to $500,000. This new route has gained traction, bringing highly rated recruits like Jalen Green and Isaiah Todd who have chosen to go this route instead of college. However, in an interview with ESPN on Monday, Bates told them that the G-League route isn’t for him.

"It's good for certain players. That's a lot of money," Bates said to ESPN. "... I don't think I'll do it. It's good for some people, but I don't think I'll head that route."

With Bates, that money he could earn in the G-League may be available to him by the time his college career would begin as the NCAA is planning on allowing student-athletes to profit off of their name, image and likeness by the beginning of 2021. With Bates’ reputation, endorsements should be plentiful for the young hoops star.

Straight to the NBA

It has been widely considered for some time that Bates could be one of the first players since the early 2000’s to jump straight from high school to the NBA if the rules were changed to allow that to happen. However, those talks have been put on hold according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, and may not pick back up until 2025.

It seems unlikely that Bates will have the opportunity to jump straight to the league with the NBA seemingly pushing this down the road for the time being. However, if we have learned anything about our time in the COVID-19 pandemic, anything can happen. With the many sports leagues attempting to make a comeback in the midst of this, contracts and collective bargaining agreements may be subject to change a lot quicker than we may anticipate. So, while it seems unlikely for the time being, don’t count it out.


Is it possible that Bates could join players like Emmanuel Mudiay, LaMelo Ball or Terrence Ferguson as another top-flight recruit to jet off to play in another country?

It is always a possibility with the money that could come with going overseas, but Bates, when talking to ESPN about his new high school team for the upcoming year, emphasized how important it was for him to remain close to home when choosing a new school to play for in the fall.

"It feels real good," Emoni said to ESPN. "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."

Bates, in his interview with ESPN, never discussed the option of going overseas, but this could always be another option for him down the line.

Michigan State

There are two major things to consider for the Ypsilanti star if he does decide to take his talents to East Lansing. The first being the option to come to MSU a year early. According to Elgin Bates, Emoni’s father, his son is on track to graduate by the end of next school year. Bates could reclassify into the 2021 recruiting class if he so desires, but Bates didn't seem too keen on stepping in a year early unless the time was right.

"I don't plan on reclassifying. I'll probably play two more years (of high school)," Bates said to ESPN. "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.”

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If Bates does decide to reclassify into the 2021 class, the current NBA rules would not allow Bates to enter into the NBA draft until after his sophomore season at Michigan State due to his age. The current rule requires that the player be 19 before joining the league, an age that Bates wouldn't be until his sophomore year.

That rule could very well be changed by the time Bates arrives in East Lansing, but for now, if Bates reclassifies, he would have to actually spend two years at Michigan State before jumping to the NBA. 

One last thing to consider about Bates and his potential college career is that he still has the ability to choose another school if he desires. The University of Michigan and Duke University are among the schools that have shown interest in Bates.

In his interview with ESPN, Bates spoke about MSU’s loyalty and pursuit of him since middle school.

"They've been showing love to me since I was in seventh grade," Bates said. "... I'm big on loyalty and they've shown me loyalty, so I have to show them love back."

While Bates has committed to MSU and seems to be his primary option in the college route, one or two years is a lot of time to ponder a decision at this point, and lots could change by then.

What’s the impact?

The commitment of Bates could start a domino effect for Izzo and the Spartans on the recruiting trail. Michigan head basketball coach Juwan Howard saw this first hand with his program in his first recruiting class. When five-star recruit Isaiah Todd committed to Michigan in October of last year, the flood gates opened for Howard, bringing in three other four-star recruits in Zeb Jackson, Hunter Dickinson and Terrance Williams. Todd would later decommit from Michigan to pursue the new G-League route.

This same thing could happen for the Spartans as they look to surround Bates with talent. Other four and five-star talents could look to come to Michigan State to play alongside the superstar, such as 2021’s Max Christie. Even if Bates never steps foot onto the Breslin Center's floor, he could still potentially bring in others with him.

What happens though if the verbal commitment changes to a signed one? First, this could be one of Izzo’s last chances to bring home that second elusive title he has been chasing since 2000. Second, the exposure Michigan State athletics would receive would be immense. For example, the last player to receive this much attention in college hoops would be former Duke star Zion Williamson. While Duke has been a national powerhouse for years, his effect on ticket sales was real. According to Forbes and a spokesperson for Vivid Seats, traffic on Vivid Seats website for Duke tickets was up 82% during his one year with the Blue Devils. Ticket prices for Duke games away from Cameron Indoor skyrocketed, reaching to near $1,000 when he visited North Carolina.

That type of exposure would come to East Lansing if Bates does decide to attend Michigan State. After all, he has been packing arenas for the last two years of his high school career.


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