Memphis and Penny Hardaway have struck gold again on the recruiting scene. For the second time this month, the Tigers have pulled off a five-star feat on the trail, reeling in a commitment from Class of 2021 star prospect Emoni Bates, who on Wednesday chose Memphis over offers from Oregon, Michigan State and the G League.
Bates, once ranked as the No. 1 recruit in the 2022 class, originally committed to staying in his home state of Michigan and playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State. A lot has changed since that time, however, with a decision to reopen his recruitment back in April giving way to an all-out pursuit from Memphis in recent months. A reclassification last month into the 2021 class made him an even hotter commodity by potential suitors as one of the biggest impact additions to a team in the upcoming season. He ranks as the No. 4 overall prospect in the class according to the 247Sports Composite with No. 1 NBA Draft pick potential.
For Memphis and Hardaway, Bates’ commitment continues momentum around the program that’s nearing an all-time high under this coaching staff barreling towards the 2021-22 season. Coming off an NIT championship last postseason, Memphis this offseason landed Jalen Duren, the No. 5 recruit in the 2021 class, earlier this month to complement a transfer class with three former four-star recruits. The addition of Bates gives the Tigers the No. 1 recruiting class in the country and two top-five recruits in the same class for the first time in program history.
Whether Memphis will finish at No. 1 remains to be seen but what seems likely is that Hardaway’s Tigers, for the second time in the last three recruiting cycle, will finish inside the top five of the rankings (Memphis finished No. 1 in 2019).
After a brief flirtation with the Orlando Magic for its head coaching vacancy, Hardaway this offseason seems to be fulfilling his summer promise of dedicating his focus to compiling a roster with championship potential. The Duren-Bates combo has a chance to be one of the most entertaining in college hoops next season and with a pair of returning stars in Landers Nolley and DeAndre Williams, the Tigers have top-15 futures odds to win the title next season.
Adding to the intrigue of the Bates addition for Memphis is his eligibility. He has a blue-chip resume as a future lottery pick but he is a rare reclassification case in which he is not eligible to be one-and-done because of his age, meaning he’ll have to play two more years before gaining NBA draft eligibility in 2023. Should both those years come at Memphis, he figures to be positioned to cash in on his name, image and likeness like few others have at the college level given his profile and the potential he could instantly become one of the faces of college basketball for a borderline top-10 preseason team.