Now that most of the transfer portal options are off the board, Michigan basketball needs to turn to Emoni Bates.
With freshmen Caleb Houstan and Moussa Diabate declaring early to enter the NBA Draft, Michigan basketball still has two open scholarships to play with.
Several names have been linked to the Wolverines such as Pete Nance Jr., Jacob Grandison, and Joey Baker. Grandison has since committed to Duke and Baker, the former Blue Devil, took an official visit to Michigan basketball.
However, there is another big fish sitting in the portal that may be a bit divisive among the Michigan faithful — Emoni Bates.
Following some misses in the transfer portal, Chris Balas of The Wolverine had this to say on Sunday, indicating a run at Bates could be coming:
“That leaves Duke’s Joey Baker and — yes — Memphis wing Emoni Bates as two of the few options remaining. As first reported by TheWolverine.com, Baker visited midweek. He left without committing, but the former top 30 prospect remains a strong possibility.”
After being billed as the next NBA phenom and the nation’s top recruit, the last few years have not gone according to plan for Bates. Last year was particularly difficult as Bates was in a dysfunctional situation at Memphis.
Head coach Penny Hardaway had Bates playing out of position at point guard. He finished with 42 turnovers and 23 assists on the season. Bates also only played in 18 games and dealt with a lower back injury. He averaged 9.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.3 assists.
While Bates did not live up to expectations at Memphis, he is still the most talented player in the transfer portal. Michigan basketball should make a priority transfer and here is why.
Why the Wolverines need Emoni Bates
With Caleb Houstan moving on, Michigan basketball will not get the benefit of an expected sophomore leap from him.
Michigan returns Kobe Bufkin and Isaiah Barnes and welcomes freshman Jett Howard, but it could use another body on the wing.
Additionally, despite the flak Houstan received from Michigan fans for not living up to his own high expectations, he was still one of the better three-point shooters on the team. Baker shot 40.5% from behind the arc last season and would help the Wolverines as a spot-up shooter.
Bates can shoot the three, but he is a flat-out scorer at three levels. Coming out of high school, he was regarded as the best scorer in the country. There were plenty of moments last season when Michigan stagnated on offense in late clock situations because it did not have someone to go and get a bucket when it needed one.
Michigan may have that guy in Kobe Bufkin, Jett Howard, or Jaelin Llewellyn, but as of now, that is a question. Bates could be a go-to scorer for Michigan and an All-American if he plays to his potential. That also would help the All-American Michigan already has on the roster in Hunter Dickinson.
It would not be a surprise if Dickinson averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds this season. He came close last season, averaging 18.6 points and 8.6 rebounds. However, as Michigan basketball is currently constructed, he will draw a lot of double teams until others step up as consistent threats. Adding a potentially dynamic wing scorer in Bates would make Dickinson’s life easier.
Now, the potential conflict in adding Bates to the roster comes from dealing with his camp and in particular, his father Elgin.
However, Elgin is a longtime friend of Michigan head coach Juwan Howard. If there is any coach that the elder Bates will feel comfortable taking a step back and letting his son be properly coached, it is Juwan Howard. Additionally, Bates needs Michigan as much as it needs him.
In an ideal world for Bates, next season will be his last season in college. If he wants to achieve his aspirations of being a lottery pick, he needs to not only have a big season but also prove he can thrive in a team environment.
Michigan basketball has had nine first-round picks in the last 10 years and may add more next week. Howard developed Franz Wagner, who plays Bates’ position, into a top 10 pick last year. If Bates proves he can play in Michigan’s system, he will be able to rebuild his draft stock.
I don’t know Bates personally, but in my opinion, he seems like a good kid that has been placed in bad environments the last few years. My personal concern with Bates is his poor testing numbers. However, if he comes to Michigan, he’ll get to work with Michigan’s head athletic trainer Jon Sanderson and we have seen the magic he has worked with his “Camp Sanderson” program with Isaiah Barnes being the latest example.
Bates had Michigan in a top-six that includes Arkansas, Seton Hall, DePaul, Louisville, and Eastern Michigan. Louisville appears to have his attention right now, but it feels like Michigan has not really pushed for Bates either.
If Michigan’s options on the wing are between Baker and Bates, I would easily choose Bates because he raises the ceiling of the roster. Michigan has made the Sweet 16 in six of the last eight NCAA tournaments. Adding Bates to the roster could lead to another deep run. Plus, wouldn’t it be fun to see him go off in East Lansing against Michigan State?