The long and winding recruitment process of five-star prospect Emoni Bates seems likely — once again, and potentially for good this time! — to be headed towards an end in the very near future. The former Michigan State commit is down to four options and after recently reclassifying from the 2022 class to the 2021 class, a decision is expected as early as this week.
After backing away from his Michigan State commitment earlier this year, the Spartans are a contender to (re)land his services. However, in this round of recruitment, two top colleges — Memphis and Oregon — have emerged as viable landing spots, and the G League Ignite program has made a spirited push to steal away his services, too.
So where will he land this time? Will he skip college and turn pro? Or will he put the pro pursuit on pause, opting instead to chase time in college, thus immediately becoming one of the biggest names in the game? My predictions are below. But first, a look at each of his final four options — ranked according to fit.
Under Penny Hardaway, Memphis has cultivated an atmosphere of a pro program. The school landed No. 1 overall recruit James Wiseman in 2019, and he later became the No. 2 overall pick. Five-star signee Precious Achiuwa went on to become a first-rounder in that same draft. Most expect Bates will prioritize whichever destination can best prepare him for the NBA, so having success in recent years doing that for other players is a big feather in the cap.
Memphis can make an enticing pitch, too. Potential No. 1 pick Jalen Duren is set to arrive this fall and the big man could pair nicely with Bates and his perimeter game. So a year after a 20-8 campaign, the duo — combined with returning starters Landers Nolley and DeAndre Williams — could be enough to put the Tigers over the top as a borderline top-10 preseason team with legitimate title hopes.
As Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander recently discussed in an episode of the Eye on College Basketball Podcast, Oregon presents a starkly different opportunity for Bates. Whereas he’d be a star shining bright in the spotlight at Memphis, at Oregon he’d perhaps join a team on the same level from a talent perspective but likely not under the same microscope. Long seen as a star with his skill, he’s bashful by superstar measures so the chance to develop as a Duck on Pac-12 time could be enticing.
Oregon also can offer a chance to be an instant impact addition. The team lost Chris Duarte, Eugene Omoruyi and LJ Figueroa, its top three scorers, and while it added transfers De’Vion Harmon, Jacob Young and Quincy Gurrier this offseason, there is opportunity to step in and star on the wing right away.
3. Michigan State
Michigan State should be considered a contender this time around even if landing Bates’ commitment the first time around didn’t stick. It has home state advantage and the appeal of serving as a primary scorer right away thanks to the departures of last season’s top two scorers, Aaron Henry and Joshua Langford. There’s also the appeal of staying close to home and helping Michigan State — which has had two down years by Michigan State standards — turn its fortunes around. Bates, along with five-star commit Max Christie, have the goods to do exactly that if they were to team up.
4. G League Ignite
The G League Ignite program — now entering its second season — has yet to take a player that is not one-and-done eligible. So adding Bates, who is not draft eligible until 2023 because of his age, would be a shift on that front. It’d no doubt be a coup, though. Bates’ last year has stunted some optimism about his superstar potential but he’s still a potential No. 1 pick contender and a major boon to the league’s long-term viability and relevance.
Memphis right now seems to be in the best spot to land Bates, and it has been trending that way for awhile now. After a visit to campus earlier this month (where he met with Lil Penny), the prevailing belief is that Penny Hardaway and Co. have this thing nearly locked down. Bates could certainly have a change of heart — he’s already had one once during his recruitment process — but the Tigers appear to be on the verge of landing Jalen Duren and Emoni Bates in the same recruiting class, which would give them for the first time in program history commitments from two top-five prospects.