Emoni Bates on Wednesday made it official that his eyes are trained on playing for the Tigers in Memphis. (Photo: Twitter)
Terry Davis

The summer of Penny Hardaway just continues to shine, with the luster of five-star recruit Emoni Bates adding to the anticipation of a special season on the court for the University of Memphis Tigers.

A top-ten prospect, Bates – a 210 pounder, who can play multiple positions – stands 6’9” and has been savored as player by various high-profile college programs since his time at middle school.

Two years ago, Hardaway had the number-one ranked recruiting class in America. With the addition of Bates, he may emerge, again, with that distinction. On Aug. 6, the Tigers announced that Jalen Duren, another highly touted, five-star recruit, was coming to Memphis. According to Rivals, Duren is the No. 1 prospect in the nation.

Whew!

The last game the Tigers played was in Dallas, Texas as they cut down the NIT Championship nets. The ensuing off-season has been a thrill ride.

On the players’ front, Boogie Ellis transferred to USC. Damian Baugh moved on to Texas Christian University and DJ Jeffries chose to take his skills to Mississippi State. And, Tyler Harris, the deadly shooting guard from Cordova, transferred back to Memphis after spending a year at Iowa State.

The off-season buzz also has included Hardaway’s signing of two new coaches – legendary college and NBA coach Larry Brown and former NBA stalwart Rasheed Wallace, who once played for Brown.

Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Bates – as a freshman at Lincoln High School in Ypsilanti, Michigan – led his team to a state championship. His play netted him the Michigan Gatorade Player of the Year and MaxPreps National Freshman of the Year honors.

The following season, Bates became the first sophomore to win the Gatorade National Player of the Year boys’ award. During his final high school season, he moved to Ypsi Prep Academy, a new prep school created by his father.

Emoni Bates sits courtside at the Niki-sponsored Peach Jam basketball tournament in Atlanta in July. (Photo: Twitter)

In Memphis, the Bates-watch intensified over the past several days. There were reported sightings of him on the UofM campus and reports that he had an email account. Jason Smith of the “Jason and John Show” tweeted that Bates was listed as a student in the University of Memphis White Pages.

At 5:52 p.m. on Wednesday, Bates removed the mystery. Using his Instagram feed, Bates announced that he was choosing to play for the Tigers. Memphis won out over the University of Oregon, Michigan State and the NBA’s G-League.

Last season, Hardaway lost highly-recruited Jalen Green to the G-League. Green subsequently became the No. 2 pick in this year’s NBA Draft.

Bates – because of his age – will not be eligible to play in the NBA. There is a great chance that he will be on campus for two years. Duren will be eligible to enter the NBA draft next season.

Word of Bates’ decision prompted Grizzlies’ star guard Ja Morant to craft this social media post:

To which Bates replied:

The Tigers’ must-see season is set to unfold in six weeks with this year’s version of the annual Tiger Madness event at FedExForum.

And with this recruiting class, Tigers nation can expect a lot of stars and notables to be in attendance.

Hardaway, Tigers busy during off-season