Ypsilanti – Two weeks after being reinstated to his Eastern Michigan basketball team and with his legal troubles mostly behind him, Emoni Bates wore a big smile as the final seconds of warm-up ticked away on Thursday night .
Bates made his last shot in warmups, a long 3-pointer punctuated by a pose, then he made the first shot of his career in Eastern Michigan, another 3-pointer, less than 30 seconds into the game. an exhibition game against Grand Valley State as a cheering crowd of 2,487 cheered their approval for the return of the hometown phenom.
Bates finished the game leading all scorers with 27 points, including part of an impressive first half in which he made three 3-pointers and knocked down a made-for-TV windmill dunk . He struggled a little early in the second half, a second turnover in as many possessions sending him to the bench, where he got one-on-one advice from the second-year head coach of ‘Eastern, Stan Heath, who ended the conversation with a pat on the back.
Thursday’s exhibition, won by Eastern Michigan 85-69 thanks to a dominant second half, marked Bates’ first game in his hometown of Ypsilanti since ending his high school career in the league. shadow of the George Gervin Center.
“I feel like, you know, those kind of guys, you have to let them be them, but at the same time let him know we’re here for him and support him and watch him play,” said Eastern Michigan sophomore point guard Noah. Farrakhan said of Bates. “He’s a rare talent.
“It’s a big room.”
Bates was not made available to the media after the match.
Bates, 18, a once-in-a-lifetime phenom who was on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 15-year-old, played his first season at Memphis, where he averaged 9.7 points before deciding to transfer after a baptism of up and down at college hoops that featured off-court drama and a season-ending injury.
Saying, ‘I love my city,’ he then chose eastern Michigan to pursue his career, much to the delight of a school that saw season ticket sales more than double after Bates announced his return at home.
The upper deck of the Gervin Center, formerly the Convocation Center, was closed Thursday, but if Bates can resuscitate his career and push harder for Eastern Michigan like his first, that may not always be the case. .
Bates dazzled despite limited practice. Even before he could officially train with his new teammates, he broke the law, pulled over and was arrested for felony firearms charges last month. He was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and altering the identification marks on the weapon, which was missing one of its three serial numbers. Bates told officers that the car and the gun, a 9-millimeter Glock 17C, did not belong to him. The car was registered with an LLC in Memphis. It has not been revealed who owns the weapon.
Earlier this month, Bates, who was also driving without a valid license and had pot and cigars in the car, reached a plea deal for a misdemeanor charge of attempting to transport a loaded firearm in a vehicle.
Bates was immediately reinstated and the felony charges dismissed. He is expected to be sentenced Dec. 14 and faces up to two years probation and up to $2,500 in fines.
During his first practice on October 13, Bates addressed his teammates.
“I don’t know exactly what was said,” Heath said. “I actually let him speak to the team without the coaches. He spoke to the team and I know they welcomed him with open arms.
“It’s the honest truth to God: he’s a very good boy, who made a mistake. But he’s a very good boy. I like coaching him, he works hard, he wants to do good, he wants to be invested.
“And I’m glad we have it.”
Bates has not spoken publicly about the traffic stop incident, which made national headlines, given his profile. A video of him handcuffed to the back of a sheriff’s deputy patrol car, in tears and talking to his parents on the phone, was posted by TMZ. After his plea, he released a statement saying, “I hold myself accountable for making a bad decision and hope you can forgive me as I grow.”
Bates started Thursday’s game and was totally committed throughout his 33 minutes, especially in the first half, even when he was on the bench. When Eastern Michigan called a first-half timeout with Grand Valley State surging — Eastern Michigan was only leading 35-33 at halftime — Bates was the first player from the bench to slap the hand of his teammates.
While he took most of his open shots in the first half, he let one in particular pass – relying on second-year guard Tyson Acuff, who had the better look. When Acuff let the 3-point fly, Bates pointed for the rafters before the ball even passed through the hoop. He also had a nice header pass from three quarters down the field which led to some quick break points.
His only first-half mishap – if you don’t count the Nike warm-up he wore; Eastern Michigan is adidas school – came when Acuff threw him a money lane, which Bates couldn’t convert.
Bates had the most minutes and the most points on the court, but it still wasn’t a selfish performance. There had been published reports that he had problems with his teammates in Memphis.
“I didn’t know him before,” Heath said. “Everything that’s been said in the media is not the guy I’m coaching. I don’t know if he’s changed or if the media got it wrong.”
For the game, Bates — who officially became the first former five-star basketball rookie to play in the Mid-American Conference — shot 9 for 17 (4 for 10 of 3), with five rebounds, two steals and a assistance.
Bates, named to the Mid-American Conference second team in the preseason poll, was content to mostly hang around the perimeter, at least early on. He made a great run to the basket early in the second half, scoring the shot and taking a foul. He made a nice cut to the basket for a late layup, drawing another foul. He was 5 for 8 from the line.
The 6-foot-9 guard’s last 3-pointer came with less than 4 minutes to go – and just like his last shot in warm-ups, it featured a multi-second pose.
The arrival of Bates, to join fellow Metro Detroiters Acuff (Duquesne), Legend Geeter (Providence) and Orlando Lovejoy, who are also new to the East this year, gives Heath a significant boost in talent over his tenure. second year on the job, not to mention Georgetown transfer Jalin Billingsley. Farrakhan, the team’s best player last season, is also back. He scored 22 to go with two blocks in Thursday’s win, while big man Geeter added a double-double, 13 rebounds and 11 points, along with two blocks. Acuff scored 15.
Bates, Farrakhan, Acuff and Billingsley are all sophomores, Geeter is a redshirt freshman, and Lovejoy is a freshman – all of them were “the” guy, at least in previous stops. Perhaps none more so than Bates, who is off to a strong start to his fresh start, despite a late start to preseason.
“He transitioned really well, he came in, he got to work, he was locked in, really focused,” Farrakhan said. “He fits in very well.”
Eastern Michigan, 10-21 last season, opens this regular season Nov. 7 at home against Wayne State.
Grand Valley State Division II, led by first-year head coach and Ferndale native Cornell Mann, continues its grueling show schedule Tuesday at Michigan State. The Lakers lost to Oakland, 92-76, a week ago. Chinedu Kingsley Okanu, a transfer from Northern Illinois, led Grand Valley State with 11 points and six rebounds.