Former five-star Emoni Bates fired up college basketball and social media again on Tuesday night. He went off for 29 straight points during the first half of Eastern Michigan’s road game at Toledo. Bates cooled down – if you want to call it that – some in the second half before finishing with 43 points and seven rebounds on 15-23 shooting (9-14 from three) in an 84-79 loss.
Everybody is well aware of Bates journey by now. He went from the No. 1 high school recruit to an early enrollee at Memphis to the top ranked transfer who headed back to his hometown of Ypsilanti hoping to rebuild his game and rehab his reputation. There’s no need to go through all the details there.
From an individual statistical standpoint, things are going pretty well for Bates. After Tuesday night’s barrage, Bates is averaging an impressive 20.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. That’s way up from the 9.7 and 3.3 he put up during his freshman year at Memphis. His shooting percentages are up, as well. Bates is shooting 43.5% overall from the field which is an improvement from last season’s 38.6%. He’s also hitting 37.2% from three compared to just 32.9% last year.
In addition to last night’s explosion, there have been other signs of the talent that captivated evaluators and NBA scouts at an early age. Bates had a 30-point outing to start the season in a near upset against Michigan, 36 points against South Carolina and 26 points and 10 rebounds earlier this month during a win over Central Michigan.
But despite Bates’ individual resurgence, Eastern Michigan has been terrible. The Eagles are just 4-16 overall and are currently tied for dead last in the Mid-American Conference with a 1-6 record in league play. At some point, Bates is going to be asked why he couldn’t help his team win more games. But, that’s a different conversation for a different day.
The topic of today’s discussion is the eyes of the NBA. How successful has Bates been in rebuilding his game and rehabbing his reputation while at Eastern Michigan?
To answer that question, we’ve got to adjust our expectations. The days of touting Bates as a potential No. 1 or even a Lottery pick are gone. But, that doesn’t mean his future is grim. Even though it seems as if he’s been around forever, the 6-foot-9 Bates is only a few days short of turning 19. And as the season progresses, the NBA has been warming up the idea of Bates being a potential first round pick .
“Say what you want about how he’s progressed or hasn’t progressed as a player compared to what the expectations are, he’s still very much a lethal shot maker when he’s on,” an NBA Eastern Conference scout told 247Sports. “And while he takes some questionable shots and isn’t efficient, there is a role for him in the league as an off the bench scorer if he can become a more efficient shooter and is a willing team defender. Some of his habits simply need to be reprogrammed.”
A Western Conference scout offered up a similar opinion.
“There are plenty of questions about Emoni, but he’s proving to me that he can play in our league,” the scout stated. “It’s going to be the job of whoever takes him to bulk him up and focus his energy in a positive direction, but if you have a chance to take him towards the end of the first round or early second, the potential reward is worth the risk.”
This is a major shift from even a month ago when most of the NBA personnel who spoke to 247Sports considered Bates either untouchable or a major risk.
Bates is still a work in progress. And if he can find some more consistency, then the good — like last night’s 43 point showcase — will far outweigh the bad (like his recent three and seven point stinkers against Akron and Kent State). Also, this consistency will likely outshine Eastern Michigan’s horrible record.
“And that’s where efficiency matters,” the Eastern Conference scout finished. “But he’s also not the number one draft pick. If he’s a rotational player drafted at number 28, he can be just fine as long as he’s accepting of that role and his limitations.”
The Daily Dish is a daily college basketball column by a rotating cast of 247Sports writers on the biggest stories of the day in the sport and will run through the NCAA Tournament championship in April.