Emoni Bates of Michigan was woken up on Tuesday with good news.
Bates named Gatorade High School Basketball National Player of the Year, becoming the first sophomore to win the award, and was notified on a FaceTime call with Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum.
“I was shocked and really surprised,” said Bates later in a telephone interview with the Associated Press. “It means a lot to me, especially to be the youngest to win this award.”
Bates defeats Evan Mobley of California and Cade Cunningham of Texas, the highest ranked seniors in the country. The 6-foot-11 Mobley has signed up to play in Southern California next season and the 6-6 Cunningham is heading to Oklahoma State.
“I called Emoni this morning, congratulated him on his victory and it looked like he had just woken up,” recalls Tatum. “When I told him, his mouth dropped. “
Bates could potentially be selected with choice # 1 in the NBA 2022 draft.
“This is the real deal,” said Tatum, who won the Gatorade Prize in 2016. “I saw him play and train in person, and I saw his highlights on Twitter. He can do anything. I told him he had what he needed and everyone knew it. He just needs to stay motivated, hungry and keep working. “
The 6-foot-9-inch guard averaged 32 points this year. His chance to help Ypsilanti Lincoln High School rehearse as state champions was cut short during the playoffs due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Gatorade has recognized the country’s best basketball player since 1986, when J.R.Reid won the award. Reid then played in North Carolina and played in the NBA.
Former winners such as LeBron James have combined to win five NBA MVP awards, make 69 All-Star Game appearances and become 26-time first-round picks.
Bates does not seem interested in a reclassification to make next season his last in high school, a decision that would put him on the path to playing college basketball early and would guarantee his eligibility for the draft in two years.
“There really is no focus on reclassification,” said his father, E.J. Bates, told the PA last week.
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