As Prized Recruit Emoni Bates Hits The Transfer Portal, A Harsh Reality Sets In For Penny Hardaway And Memphis

(Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

Memphis University star freshman Emoni Bates is entering the transfer portal. It’s just getting too messy in Memphis.

Memphis faces tons of obstacles moving forward after losing some key players, being under investigation and facing charges. Coach Penny Hardaway is going to be under a tremendous amount of pressure to produce results should he still be coaching next year.

Penny Hardaway Struggling At His Alma Mater | Freshman Phenom Emoni Bates May Be Done On Beale Street

In a statement on Instagram regarding his departure from Memphis, the 6-foot-9 sleek shooting forward said:

“I’d like to thank Coach Penny [Hardaway], my teammates, and the entire coaching staff at the University of Memphis for giving me the opportunity to be a Tiger,” Bates wrote. “Thank you Tiger Nation for embracing me and all of you who supported our team throughout this season. With that being said, I have decided to enter the transfer portal. Thank you!” 

Emoni was ranked No. 1 in the class of 2022 before reclassifying to the class of 2021, ending with the No. 3 ranking for that class. In one season at Memphis, Bates, who was considered a generational talent, becoming the only sophomore to ever win National Gatorade Player of the Year — averaged just under 10 points, three rebounds, and an assist per game on 38 percent shooting.

The 6-foot-9 18-year-old is a freakish sight to behold and conjured memories of some of the greatest high school hoop stars of any era.

Many speculated that Emoni would be leaving Memphis due to several issues, including a struggling team and coach, and a nagging back injury. Ultimately, NCAA violation claims against Memphis and Penny compounded those issues. The school became a less desirable destination quickly. 

Penny Hardaway Sits At The Center Of Several University Of Memphis NCAA Violations Allegations

 

To make things even worse, Memphis lost their best player. Freshman sensation Jalen Duran went one-and-done, declaring for the NBA draft after averaging 12 points per game on 59 percent shooting, eight rebounds per game, and an astonishing two blocks per game. 

The Michigan native originally committed to Michigan State in the summer of 2020, but then reopened his recruitment in April last year. While it was widely expected Bates would skip college to play professionally in the G-League or overseas, he eventually committed to Penny and Memphis.

Penny’s grand plan hasn’t exactly worked, and he’s prematurely lost some elite players who were supposed to lead the program to new heights.

James Wiseman Era That Never Was

The James Wiseman era was shortened to three games after the NCAA levied a 12-game suspension for an $11,500 payment made by Hardaway to Wiseman’s mother in 2017 to help the Wiseman family relocate from Nashville to Memphis. At the time, Hardaway was an assistant coach at East High School in Memphis and a force on the AAU coaching circuit with access to five-star players.

The NCAA determined that Hardaway was a University of Memphis booster because he’d paid the school $1 million in 2008 to help establish the Penny Hardaway Hall of Fame at the university. Wiseman was basically forced into the NBA draft and never got to have college glory.

The program and Hardaway will continue to be under a microscope. Emoni Bates entering the transfer portal only adds to their list of problems for this program.

Bates Will Be Coveted Portal Player

Though Bates had an inconsistent season at Memphis, he was still an integral part of their team and will be a heavily pursued player in the transfer portal from multiple programs. He was once projected to be the top player in the 2023 draft. 

He, unfortunately, missed 15 games last season due to his lingering back injury that led him home to Michigan to see a specialist. 

Because Bates just turned 18 in January, he was not eligible to declare for the 2022 NBA draft, so instead he has decided to enter the transfer portal to seek a new school, preferably with less drama and scrutiny that would distract him from basketball.

Due to him having to wait one more year before being draft-eligible, Bates has options. He could possibly play overseas for a year or join the G-League and begin his pro journey. 

Though Bates isn’t as polished as some of the other players in the transfer portal, he has a tremendous amount of potential and a huge upside. Emoni will have the NCAA at his fingertips, and any team would love to add him to their program. We just don’t know what he’s decided yet. Wherever he decides to go, Bates’ trajectory is still lottery pick.