This is kind of embarrassing to admit, but I showed up to Millett Hall over two hours before tipoff on Saturday. Like a little kid on Christmas, I woke up in a good mood, for I was about to see Emoni Bates in person, the only former five star recruit EVER to play at Millett Hall. I was about to witness history.
Emoni Bates: The former prodigy
Bates, a 6-foot-10-inch guard, hasn’t had the most linear career, to put it nicely.
In ninth grade, he led Lincoln High School (Ypsilanti, Mich.) to a Michigan State title. The next year, he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated and became the first sophomore to ever win the Gatorade National Player of the Year. For context, some of the recent winners of that award: James Wiseman, Chet Holmgren, R.J. Barrett, Jayson Tatum. Going a little farther back: Kobe won it in 1996, Lebron in 2002 and 2003, and Dwight Howard in ‘04… You get it. Impressive stuff.
Before his junior year in high school, Bates reclassified to become a senior. The next year, he was the youngest player in college hoops, playing for the University of Memphis at 17 years old. Lower back and finger injuries hampered his first year, and before his sophomore year, he decided to transfer back home to Eastern Michigan University (EMU) Eagles, whose campus is in his hometown of Ypsilanti.
Bates’s closest advisors have said that they’ve talked to over twenty NBA executives and other people in the know. Those conversations have led them to peg Bates as a late first or early second rounder in the upcoming NBA draft, should he decide to declare.
Bates’s Eagles have had an abysmal season in 2022 despite their starpower.
EMU came into Saturday’s game at Millett Hall with a record of 4-16 and 1-6 in the Mid-American Conference (MAC). The only team keeping pace with them in the basement of the MAC standings: our Miami RedHawks.
In EMU’s most recent game before Miami, Bates scored 42 points in a loss to Toledo, including 29 straight at one point in the first half. It was a vintage performance, one that reminded anyone watching why Bates once graced the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 15 year old.
It was a battle of 1-6 squads at Millett Hall on Saturday. Miami was favored by six points before the game. For Miami, playing one of the worst teams in college basketball at home, this game was basically a must win.
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And at first, the RedHawks looked great. Miami jumped out to a 15-4 lead before the under-16-minute timeout. But after the commercial break ended, Head Coach Travis Steele subbed out three of his starters and EMU went on a 16-2 run of its own to take the lead 20-17. The teams went back and forth for the rest of the half, and Miami went into the break trailing 40-38.
Less than a minute into the second half, Miami hit a shot to tie the game. From there, it wouldn’t be tied again. Less than a minute later, EMU pulled back ahead with a three-pointer. The Eagles didn’t look back, and the score finished 74-69.
Bates played 39 of 40 minutes, but didn’t follow up his incredible performance at Toledo. He finished with 17 points, six rebounds and four assists on 5-of-18 field goal shooting.
Miami got a good game as usual from fifth year captain guard Mekhi Lairy. Lairy finished with 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting, but also had five turnovers. Senior captain forward Anderson Mirambeaux had four assists, a few of them awe-inspiring, but turned the ball over seven times. First-year guard Ryan Mabrey started hot from three, but he cooled way off and ended up shooting just four-of-11 from beyond the arc.
With the loss, Miami falls to 1-7 and dead last in the MAC.
The RedHawks host Toledo (15-6, 6-2 MAC) on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Millett Hall.