By Doug Donnelly
Special for Second Half
When Ypsilanti Lincoln’s boys basketball team faces off against another MHSAA title contender River Rouge on Saturday, it won’t be just another game.
And, that’s just how Lincoln freshman Emoni Bates likes it.
“He loves the lights, the crowd and playing the game of basketball,” said his father, E.J. Bates. “That’s part of the game. He loves the big stage when the lights are bright. He embraces that.’
So far in his young basketball career, there have been plenty of lights for the 14-year-old Bates. He’s touted by some as the No. 1 ninth-grade basketball player in the nation.
That’s a hefty title to carry, but one Bates is carrying well. While just a month into his high school career, the 6-foot-8 Bates is as calm and collected doing media interviews as he is shooting jump shots and throwing down thunderous dunks.
Lincoln has started the season 5-0, and Bates is the leader of a team that would be good without him but is a threat to win the Southeastern Conference White championship and make a long tournament run with him.
Every gym he’s played at so far this season has welcomed big crowds. Bates is attracting a lot of that attention.
Adrian High School had what Maples athletic director John Roberts called one of the biggest regular-season crowds he’s seen in several years when Lincoln played there on a Friday night earlier this month. Bates was clearly a big reason why. Some Maples students found their way over to Bates before the game to ask for an autograph.
Bates was impressive even in warm-ups, starting off with a big-time whirlwind dunk that got plenty of attention from the crowd.
Once the game started, Bates was equally as impressive. With every touch of the ball, the crowd expected big things from him – and he didn’t disappoint.
“Some of the people in the crowd have never seen me play, so I’m trying to put on a show for those who came out to see me,” the freshman said after the game.
Bates is averaging 28.6 points per game through five contests. He scored 32 in his varsity debut against Ann Arbor Huron in November. He scored 28 against Saline, 23 against Adrian, 32 against Pinckney and 28 against Temperance-Bedford. Lincoln’s only home game so far was the opener.
Bates said the crowd doesn’t faze him, mainly because he’s used to garnering the attention after playing before big crowds during AAU events.
“I just go out there and have fun,” he said. “I’m used to it.”
Bates has been working on his game for years. He emphasizes speed training and just getting better at all aspects of the game. On the floor, he is intent on keeping his teammates involved in the game as well.
“We are building trust,” he said of his teammates.
Lincoln is actually a veteran team. Seniors Tahj Chatman and Amari Frye were first-team all-SEC White selections last year, and senior Jalen Fisher was an honorable mention choice. Chatman has had a great start to this season, averaging in double figures, as is Fisher. The Railsplitters have 10 seniors, three juniors, a sophomore and Bates.
Lincoln head coach Jesse Davis is in his fourth season coaching Lincoln after more than 15 as an assistant at various levels. He coached at Lincoln, Willow Run and Ypsilanti before joining Josh Tropea at Milan. Davis was an assistant at Milan when the Big Reds won the 2014 Class B championship while featuring Division I college talents in Latin Davis and Nick Perkins.
The connection between the player Bates and Davis, and to Washtenaw County and southeast Michigan, runs deep.
E.J. Bates played his first three years of high school basketball at Milan, reaching the 1,000-point milestone before his junior year was over. He finished his high school basketball career at Ann Arbor Pioneer before playing collegiately in Kentucky and professionally in Europe. He and Davis have a friendship that dates back three decades.
Davis said his job is to keep the younger Bates focused on basketball and not worrying about the hype surrounding him and the team.
“He believes in his ability,” Davis said of Bates.
Tropea will have the challenge of facing off against Bates multiple times over the next couple of years, but he’s excited for the chance.
“It will be great for our league,” said Tropea. “He’s the real deal. He’s an incredible talent.”
Saturday, the Railsplitters take on River Rouge in the Washtenaw County Challenge. The event is an example of a growing trend in high school basketball in Michigan – to bring together multiple teams at one venue for a full day of basketball.
Ypsilanti Community is host and will take on Detroit Henry Ford in the last game of the day. The event kicks off at noon with Ann Arbor Huron playing Southfield Arts & Technology. Chelsea plays Parma Western in the second game, Lincoln takes on River Rouge in the third and Ann Arbor Pioneer takes on Wayne Memorial in the fourth game of the day.
The event will feature some of the most talented players and teams in the state, but Bates is sure to be in the spotlight – and not just from fans. Both University of Michigan and Michigan State University are showing interest in him, and college coaches from around the country have Bates on their radars. At the Adrian game, MSU assistant Mike Garland sat in the front row.
E.J. Bates said the attention isn’t getting to his son just yet. But he is monitoring it because, he said, “at the end of the day, he’s still a kid.
“We regulate it, so it doesn’t get too overwhelming for him. Everything is fine. If it gets too out of hand, we’ll sever ties with it. If he needs a break, we’re going to give him one.”
E.J. has coached his son in AAU basketball. This prep season, he’s enjoying watching his son develop his game at the high school level in the same area where he grew up playing.
“I love it,” E.J. Bates said. “I always wanted him to be able to stay at home and play basketball. … First of all, like I always tell everybody, if you are that type of talent and you want to leave a legacy behind, you should leave it at home. You shouldn’t go somewhere you’ll never visit after you graduate, and no one knows you. At home, your family and everybody can be proud of you for doing something for your hometown. It’s giving back to where you came from.”
Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.
PHOTOS: (Top) Ypsilanti Lincoln’s Emoni Bates brings the ball upcourt during a win over Temperance Bedford this winter. (Middle) Bates after that victory, which was part of his team’s 5-0 start. (Photos by Vanessa Ray.)
Foster Loyer’s four-season career at Clarkston from 2014-15 through 2017-18 certainly must be considered among the most accomplished in state history as he led the Wolves to back-to-back Class A championships in 2017 and 2018 and is listed in the record book 25 times.
Among Loyer’s most notable entries were 2,325 career points (12th most), 272 career 3-pointers (tied for ninth), records of 119 consecutive free throws and 634 career free throws, a .921 free-throw percentage as a junior (tied for fourth) and .900 career percentage (second), 589 career assists (sixth), 278 career steals (15th) and 102 games played (tied for sixth).
Loyer went on to play at Michigan State and then Davidson.
See below for more recent record book entries for boys basketball.
Four Onaway standouts were added for single-season and/or career records. Jager Mix, who graduated in 2022, was added for 92 steals last season and 225 over his four-season career. Kevin Pearson, a 2021 grad, was added for 81 steals as a senior and 247 over his career. Joe Sigsby, a 2016 grad, was added for 127 steals, and Jadin Mix was added for 124 in 2021-22. Their totals rank ninth and tied for 10th, respectively, on that all-time list. Jager Mix also was added for 967 career rebounds, and Onaway as a team was added for tying the record for most points in a quarter with 49 during the first quarter of a win over Fife Lake Forest Area on Feb. 3, 2022. Jager Mix is playing at Alpena Community College, and Jadin Mix is a senior this school year.
Uchenna Amene was added for 11 steals in a March 7, 2022, game against West Bloomfield Frankel Jewish Academy and for 97 steals total over 25 games. He was a sophomore at Southfield Christian that season and now is a senior at Detroit Catholic Central.
Owen Franklin graduated from Oscoda in 2021 as the school’s all-time leading scorer, and nearly 44 percent of those 1,477 points came on 3-pointers. Franklin made the state career 3-pointers list with 216 over four seasons. He’s playing baseball at Northwood.
Traverse City Christian sophomore Reece Broderick became one of the state’s most accomplished long-distance shooters in just his second year of high school this past winter, drilling 104 3-pointers – good for third-most for one season all-time – over 23 games. He connected on 42 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.
A pair of Rudyard four-year varsity standouts entered the record book after their graduations in 2022. Tate Besteman made the career rebounds list with 762 over 89 games, and EJ Suggitt made the career 3-pointers list with 215 over the same 89 contests. Besteman played this past season for Mid Michigan College, and Suggitt is playing baseball at Spring Arbor.
Success from 3-point range played a significant role in Mesick finishing 21-1 in 2021-22, as the team made 195 of its 578 attempts – with game highs of 15 twice in wins over Baldwin and Pentwater.
Then-senior Tristan McFolley earned the first listing under single-game rebounds since 2013 with 30 in Detroit Cesar Chavez Academy’s game with Hope of Detroit Academy on Dec. 8, 2022.
Tawas found its groove from long range Jan. 10 against Oscoda, drilling 22 3-pointers in an 86-31 win. The total tied for fifth-most in one game.
Although Norway felt just short, 40-37, in its District loss to Crystal Falls Forest Park on March 8, Alex Ortman kept the Knights close scoring 20 of his team-high 25 points in the fourth quarter to make the single-quarter scoring list. He’s now a senior.
Kobe Clark has listings in two MHSAA record books, with three for boys basketball joining those he earned for football during his Schoolcraft career. He was added in hoops for 531 career assists and 290 career steals over 94 games from 2016-17 through 2019-20, and also for 82 steals as a senior. Tyler DeGroote also was added to the record book, for scoring 20 points during the first quarter against Delton Kellogg during Schoolcraft’s Jan. 11, 2022, victory. Clark began at Saginaw Valley State for football and now plays basketball and Kalamazoo Valley Community College, and DeGroote is continuing at Rockhurst (Mo.).
Past Detroit Cooley star Larry Fogle has added a seventh record book listing a half-century later. Fogle grabbed 33 rebounds on Jan. 18, 1972, during a win over Detroit Mackenzie. He went on to play at Louisiana and Canisius, and then briefly with the New York Knicks.
Trevon Gunter scored 42 points in Kalamazoo Central’s 84-56 win over Richland Gull Lake on Jan. 17, 2020, including 31 during the third quarter – second-most and just one shy of the record for points during one period. A senior that season, Gunter plays currently at Grand Valley State.
Mark Wittbrodt held the record for consecutive free throws at 70 until 2008, and that entry in the record book has been joined by several others from the Bay City Western star. He was added for his 192 3-pointers, 436 free throws, .842 free-throw percentage and 266 career steals over three seasons from 1991-93, as well as for six single-season accomplishments. He went on to play at Michigan Tech.
Ellsworth’s Jacob Jenuwine tied for 12th on the single-game 3-pointers list when he connected on 11 as part of scoring 39 points total in his team’s Feb. 14 win over Alanson. Jenuwine graduated this spring.
Bellevue senior Dawson Wing capped his three-season varsity career last winter with three entries in the record. He was added for 12 blocked shots in a 2021-22 game against Colon, 107 for the season last winter and 203 blocks over his career. Teammate Caleb Betz, a senior this fall, was added for 12 steals in a game against Athens.
Logan Mansfield capped his Morenci career in a big way last winter. The senior drilled 90 3-pointers over 24 games to earn his school’s first individual record book entry in boys hoops since the 1987-88 season, when John Craig had 132 blocked shots that would have been the second-most recorded at that time. They currently rank 13th.
New Haven earned a pair of record book entries during its March 10 win over Memphis. The Rockets bested their previous single-quarter school record with 41 points during the opening period, and they also made the statewide single-game 3-pointers list with 16.
Whitehall’s Camden Thompson, a junior this fall, earned his first record book entry last winter – and the first for his school in boys basketball. He grabbed 303 rebounds over 21 games.
Grand Rapids Wellspring Prep junior Zeekeal Jackson earned his school's first boys basketball record book entry this past season as well. He made the single-season steals list with 106, over 22 games, and just missed the single-game list with a high of 10.
Jonesville’s Brady Wright was among his team’s leading scorers during his three varsity seasons ending this past winter, but he also was a major contributor defensively. He made the records with a season-high 101 steals over 25 games as a senior, and made the career list with 232 steals over 61 games.
Sophomore Christopher McLavish Jr. made a memorable impact last season with a pair of record book entries. He made the single-quarter points list with 20 in a Feb. 21 game against Flint Powers Catholic, but even more memorable were his 97 3-pointers over 25 games for the season – tying him for 11th all-time on that list.
PHOTO Foster Loyer directs Clarkston's offense during its 2018 Class A Semifinal.