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Ypsilanti Lincoln’s Emoni Bates becomes first sophomore to ever win Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year honors

By: MATTHEW B. MOWERY, April 14, 2020, 10:39 am

Emoni Bates became the first sophomore to win Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year honors when the company made its announcement Tuesday morning. 

The two-time Gatorade Michigan Basketball Player of the Year added the honor on Tuesday, and will be a finalist for the Gatorade Male High School Athlete of the Year award when it’s announced in July.

Normally, a sport’s Player of the Year is surprised at their high school — as Farmington Hills Mercy’s Jess Mruzik was earlier this year, when she garnered National Volleyball Player of the Year honors — but with schools closed due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Bates had to settle for congratulatory tweets from pro athletes such as Jayson Tatum and Dwyane Wade.

Tatum won National Boys Basketball Player of the Year honors in 2015-16.

Only Brandon Knight (2008-09 and 2009-10), Greg Oden (2004-05 and 2005-06) and LeBron James (2001-02 and 2002-03) earned the national honors in back-to-back years. 

Bates joins a group of former national players of the year in basketball that included 26 NBA first-round draft picks, and have combined to win five NBA MVP awards and make 69 All-Star appearances. He’s the first Michigan winner of the honor since Flint Northwestern’s Kelvin Torbert in 2000-01, and the fourth overall, joining Ann Arbor Pioneer’s LaVell Blanchard (1998-99) and Detroit Country Day’s Chris Webber (1990-91).

Emoni Bates is the newest generational talent in the high school game,” Paul Biancardi of ESPN Basketball was quoted in the Gatorade news release. “As a 6-foot-9 sophomore, he owns a slender frame with terrific length thanks to a 7-1 wingspan. His elite ball skills have a profound influence and impact on the game. His ability as a shooter, including his capacity to make contested shots, makes him unique. His gifts off the bounce, his court vision and his fast-developing basketball IQ stand out as well. A key separating trait at this early age is his ‘alpha-dog’ mentality. When his time comes for the NBA draft, we project him as the No. 1 pick.”

The defending Division 1 champions, Bates’ Railsplitters (19-3) made it to the district finals against Ann Arbor Huron (21-1), before the postseason was put on ‘pause’ by the MHSAA, to help slow the expansion of the COVID-19 pandemic, and eventually canceled.

Bates averaged 32.4 points, 9.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.2 steals per game, and has scored 1,343 points in his two years of high school.

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Previous winners of Gatorade National Boys Basketball POY

2018-19 — James Wiseman, Sr., Memphis (Tenn.) East

2017-18 — R.J. Barrett, Sr., Montverde (Fla.) Academy

2016-17 — Michael Porter Jr., Sr., Seattle Nathan Hale

2015-16 — Jayson Tatum, Sr., St. LouisChaminade College Prep

2014-15 — Ben Simmons, Sr., Montverde (Fla.) Academy

2013-14 — Karl-Anthony Towns, Sr., Metuchen (N.J.) St. Joseph

2012-13 — Andrew Wiggins, Sr., Huntington (W.V.) Prep

2011-12 — Jabari Parker, Sr., Chicago Simeon

2010-11 — Bradley Beal, Sr., St. Louis Chaminade College Prep

2009-10 — Brandon Knight, Sr., Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) Pine Crest

2008-09 — Brandon Knight, Jr., Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) Pine Crest

2007-08 — Jrue Holiday, Sr., North Hollywood (Calif.) Campbell Hall

2006-07 — Kevin Love, Sr., Lake Oswego (Ore.)

2005-06 — Greg Oden, Sr., Indianapolis Lawrence North

2004-05 — Greg Oden, Jr., Indianapolis Lawrence North

2003-04 — Dwight Howard II, Sr., Southwest Atlanta Christian

2002-03 — LeBron James, Sr., Akron (Ohio) St. Vincent-St. Mary

2001-02 — LeBron James, Jr., Akron (Ohio) St. Vincent-St. Mary

2000-01 — Kelvin Torbert, Sr., Flint (Mich.) Northwestern

1999-00 — Jared Jeffries, Sr., Bloomington (Ind.) North

1998-99 — LaVell Blanchard, Sr., Ann Arbor (Mich.) Pioneer

1997-98 — Al Harrington, Sr., Elizabeth (N.J.) St. Patrick

1996-97 — Baron Davis, Sr., Santa Monica (Calif.) Crossroads

1995-96 — Kobe Bryant, Sr., Ardmore (Penn.) Lower Merion

1994-95 — Stephon Marbury, Sr., Brooklyn (N.Y.) Abraham Lincoln

1993-94 — Felipe Lopez, Sr., New York Rice

1992-93 — Randy Livingston, Sr., New Orleans Isadore Newman School

1991-92 — Corliss Williamson, Sr., Russellville (Ark.)

1990-91 — Chris Webber, Sr., Detroit Country Day

1989-90 — Damon Bailey, Sr., Bedford (Ind.) North Lawrence

1988-89 — Kenny Anderson, Sr., Jamaica (N.Y.) Molloy

1987-88 — Alonzo Mourning, Sr., Chesapeake (Va.) Indian River

1986-87 — LaBradford Smith, Sr., Bay City (Texas)

1985-86 — J.R. Reid, Sr., Virginia Beach (Va.) Kempsville