Emoni Bates has been considered a unique basketball prospect for much of his life, and the Cleveland Cavaliers rookie recently confirmed how dominant he was in his middle school days.
“Yeah, I did – that one’s true,” Bates said, confirming to NBA.com that he averaged 46 points per game in seventh grade. “It used to be crazy. In middle school, I’d get like 50. And my team would get 100! And the other team would get, like, 30. We were just blowing everybody out. That was my seventh-grade year. I didn’t even play my eighth-grade year. I was like: ‘This isn’t helping me at all.’ It was crazy. It was fun, though.”
The excellent play and prolific performances continued for Bates into high school, leading to him making the cover of Sports Illustrated. He was considered one of the top prospects in the nation, and big things were expected from him in his collegiate career.
But that did not go according to plan. After originally committing to Michigan State University to play in his home state, he ended up playing his freshman season at the University of Memphis. After injuries contributed to a disappointing campaign, he transferred back closer to home at Eastern Michigan University.
The beginning of his time there was rocky due to a suspension related to felony gun charges against him that were later dropped. Though he ultimately had a solid season on the court, the setbacks may have lowered his stock for the 2023 NBA Draft.
But it might have all worked out for the 19-year-old in the end. The Cavaliers were able to select him with the No. 49 overall pick in the draft, and afterward, one player called him the best player to be selected.
Bates continued to turn heads during the offseason, drawing praise from Cavaliers star Donovan Mitchell in the process. He performed well in Summer League action and earned a two-way deal for the 2023-24 NBA season.
After sitting out the first two games of the regular season, he made his NBA debut with more than six minutes of playing time against the Indiana Pacers. With the Cavs dealing with some injuries, that increased to almost 23 minutes of playing time against the New York Knicks in the next game, when he scored nine points while adding six rebounds.
Though Bates has not played in Cleveland’s two games since then, his considerable upside and pedigree have Cavaliers fans looking forward to more. Whether that will ever reach the scoring heights he showed when he was younger remains to be seen, but with the talent he possesses, it would be wise to not rule it out.