LeBron James has been around basketball for more than long enough to know a potentially elite talent in the grassroots ranks when he sees one.
On Thursday, James was thoroughly impressed with what he saw with one of the top players in the class of 2022 at the Nike EYBL Peach Jam. Highly-touted Emoni Bates dominated for Bates Fundamentals, pouring in 33 points to lead his team to a come-from-behind win after being down by 20 points earlier in the game. Bates scored 31 of his 33 points in the second half to spearhead the comeback, prompting praise from James on Twitter.
— LeBron James (@KingJames) July 15, 2021
Bates was recently knocked off his perch atop the 2022 rankings by Montverde Academy (Fla.) and Team Final center Jalen Duren after just over two years as the consensus No. 1 player in his class. Bates remains an elite prospect despite his one-spot fall in the rankings, showcasing a skill set many have compared to Kevin Durant’s.
“Extremely thin but has great length for such a skilled player. Plays with strength, though, and doesn’t avoid contact,” 247Sports’ Jerry Meyer said in his scouting report of Bates. “Quick twitch athlete who moves feet well and is quick off the floor. Elite three-level scorer. Has deep range off catch or dribble. Can score in a multitude of ways.
“Handles well, has plethora of moves and can attack either direction. Has a feel as a passer. Dangerous offensive rebounder. Good defensively when focused. Has defensive versatility. Elite, elite prospect.”
Bates’ next move when it comes to where he plays after high school is still to be determined. The 6-foot-7, 185-pound forward was previously committed to Michigan State, but backed off his pledge to the Spartans and is expected to skip college and seek the “most lucrative deal the G League can muster” before entering the NBA draft, according to The Athletic’s Brendan Quinn.
No matter where he winds up, Bates now has the full attention of one of the greatest basketball players of all-time. Not many players his age can say the same.