Former Memphis top recruit Emoni Bates announces he's entering transfer portal

Emoni Bates was supposed to be basketball's next big thing. Now, he's looking for another program to rebuild his NBA draft stock.

The former top recruit announced Saturday that he is entering the transfer portal after one season at Memphis. He thanked Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway, the Tigers program and its fanbase for their support.

As recently as two years ago, Bates was widely considered to not just be the top prospect in his class, but the best in several years after becoming the first high school sophomore to win the prestigious Gatorade Player of the Year award. Comparisons to Kevin Durant (playing style) and LeBron James (precociousness) were seriously thrown out.

The bigger question was if Bates would jump straight to the pros rather than go the college route. Ultimately, he reclassified to the Class of 2021 and committed to play for Hardaway at Memphis after an initial commitment to Michigan State.

Of course, Bates' generational hype had cooled a little by the time he reached campus. He was still considered a player worth knowing, but he wasn't even Rivals' top recruit in Memphis' class. That title belonged to No. 4 overall recruit Jalen Duren, who is now projected to be picked seventh overall in Yahoo Sports' most recent NBA mock draft.

Memphis forward Emoni Bates stands on the court during the first half of a first round NCAA college basketball tournament game against Boise State, Thursday, March 17, 2022, in Portland, Ore. Memphis won 64-53. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)
Emoni Bates' road to the NBA has not gone as planned. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)

While Duren excelled and picked up All-AAC honors, Bates struggled and was eventually sidelined by injury.

In 18 games, Bates averaged 9.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks while shooting 38.6 percent from the field and 32.9 percent from deep. He was sidelined for nearly two months with a lower back injury, but returned in time to add eight points total in Memphis' two NCAA tournament games.

Now, it looks like Bates has little interest in running it back. Bates was not eligible for the 2022 NBA draft due to his age — he does not turn 19 until Jan. 28, 2023 — and now we'll see if he can find a better springboard to the big leagues.