Emoni Bates, No. 3 in ESPN 100 for 2021, commits to play for Memphis Tigers men's basketball

Emoni Bates, one of the top prospects in high school basketball, announced his commitment to Memphis on Wednesday, firmly positioning the Tigers as a potential Final Four team.

Bates will suit up for coach Penny Hardaway's program during the upcoming season. Bates appeared in the Memphis student directory early Wednesday afternoon; the last day to enroll for the fall semester is Thursday.

A 6-foot-9 small forward from Ypsilanti, Michigan, Bates is ranked No. 3 in the ESPN 100 for the 2021 class. He originally committed to Michigan State last summer before reopening his recruitment in April. Long expected to skip college and opt to play professionally, Bates didn't have a busy recruitment until well into the spring.

Earlier this month, Bates announced he was reclassifying into the 2021 class while also cutting his list of options to four: Michigan State, Oregon, Memphis and the G League.

He took visits to Memphis and Oregon last week.

Bates had been ranked as the No. 1 player in the 2022 class since he first emerged on the recruiting scene early in his high school career, but he had an inconsistent junior season at Ypsi Prep (Michigan). However, he regained some of his momentum with the Team Final grassroots program during the spring, reestablishing himself as one of the elite scorers at the high school level. Joining the Bates Fundamental again on the Nike EYBL circuit in July, Bates averaged 20.0 points in nine games, including a 33-point performance.

He also had a 35-point game in late July in the consolation bracket of the Nike Peach Jam, shooting 13-for-24 from the field and finishing with six rebounds and three assists.

At Memphis, Bates will join fellow potential top-five NBA pick Jalen Duren, whom he played with on Team Final during the spring. Duren committed to the Tigers earlier this month.

"Bates is considered one of the most gifted offensive players in the game," ESPN national recruiting director Paul Biancardi said. "Agile and explosive with positional size and high-level shot-making talent from anywhere, he has an elusive dribble and will be great in transition, isolations, pull-up jumpers and spot-up 3s, as well as playing out of second-side ball-screen actions.

"Bates brings a competitiveness but must continue to mature. As most college freshmen experience, there is much to learn on the defensive side of the court. He had demonstrated the ability to function well with Jalen Duren from their weekend together on the circuit with Team Final. Duren and Bates could be one of the most lethal combinations in college basketball this season."

Bates and Duren are two of the four ESPN 100 prospects to commit to Memphis in the 2021 class, with Johnathan Lawson and Josh Minott also heading to the Tigers. Four-star center Sam Onu is another freshman to watch next season.

Hardaway has three returning starters -- Landers Nolley II, DeAndre Williams and Lester Quinones -- from a team that beat Mississippi State to win the NIT championship. He also added three high-major transfers: Earl Timberlake (9.3 PPG at Miami), Tyler Harris (7.5 PPG at Iowa State) and Chandler Lawson (4.4 PPG at Oregon).

Memphis was outside the top 25 in July's Way-Too-Early Top 25 update, but the additions of Duren and Bates puts the Tigers inside the top 10 -- and clearly in the national championship conversation.

Bates doesn't turn 18 until January, so he is too young to enter the 2022 NBA draft. Draft rules state a prospect must be a year removed from his high school graduating class and turn 19 in that calendar year to go into the draft. Bates won't turn 19 until January 2023. As a result, he could end up playing college basketball for two years, or go to college for one year and then play in the G League or elsewhere for a year before entering the 2023 draft.