On Tuesday, high school basketball standout, Emoni Bates won the Gatorade National Player of the Year. While the award is given every year, he is the FIRST sophomore ever to given the award. Standouts such as Kobe, LeBron, KG, Tracy McGrady and Dwight Howard all were high school players that had the goods to make the jump from the high school to the NBA, but none of them were skilled enough to win the award as a sophomore.
Bates, 16, is a 6-foot 9 forward for Lincoln High School in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Despite only being a sophomore, Emoni is considered to be the best high school basketball prospect regardless of graduating class. Currently, he is sitting at the number one spot for the graduating class of 2022 on ESPN's top 25 list. Last year, he was Michigan's Gatorade Player of the Year as a freshman after leading Lincoln to its first state championship. During the run, he averaged 32.4 points, 9.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.2 steals.
He was looking to replicate the success of last season, leading his school to a 19-3 record and a second straight appearance in the state championship, which was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, he was averaging 28.7 points, 10.2 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.8 assists through 25 games.
After winning the award, Bates said, "It feels good to win the award. I was really surprised when I got it. It showed me hard work is paying off. It feels really good. A lot of people talk, everybody has an opinion, and I appreciate the people that support me. But I really try to keep a level head and stay humble. I still got a long way to go. I just try to stay humble and stay in the gym."
Bates has the opportunity to win the award 3 times if he keeps up or even increases this level of play. Only other players to win the award twice are Greg Oden, Brandon Jennings, and of course, LeBron James. Bates knows his abilities are growing on the court and he said, "If I can go straight to the NBA out of high school, it's a go for me."
Congratulations young man, keep hoopin'.