Basketball superstar

Expecting basketball superstar Emoni Bates to play in Houston this weekend

At only 16 and already a LeBron James, Emoni Bates arrives in Houston.

Bates and Michigan’s Ypsi Prep Academy are among the headliners at Saturday’s Holiday Hoopfest – a pair of games featuring three local high school teams at the University of Houston’s Fertitta Center.

Shadow Creek and Atascocita – ranked second and ninth respectively in the state in the Texas Basketball Coaches Association’s Class 6A rankings – meet at 6 p.m.

The capacity of the event is capped at 25 percent, allowing approximately 2,000 spectators. Although some will be present for the local teams, it is advisable to watch Bates.

He was the youngest basketball player to cover Sports Illustrated at the age of 15 in 2019. The magazine’s famous “Chosen One” cover featured 17-year-old James in 2002.

Bates has miles to go before he’s really in the same conversation with one of the greatest players in history. However, every showing points to the small forward 6-9 and Michigan State’s commitment is the next big star in the game. Bates is expected to be the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft in two or three. years.

“He’s everything you probably think he is and probably more,” said Glenn Smith, event organizer and president of Hoopfest Basketball. “It’s different with him. … He will do his part on the pitch. It’s just a matter of people who can come and see it while it’s still cheap.

Holiday Hoopfest is an extension of Thanksgiving Hoopfest that Smith has been hosting for 12 years in Dallas. Yates was part of last year’s Thanksgiving Hoopfest, playing at the Florida Montverde Academy at the American Airlines Center, home of the NBA Mavericks. There were 13,000 people there then to see the Sierra Canyon of California, which featured Bronny James (son of LeBron James) and Zaire Wade (son of Dwyane Wade), facing Duncanville.

Last season, Bates played for Ypsilanti Lincoln, who, because he is part of the Michigan High School Athletic Association, cannot take on opponents not authorized by the league or travel outside a 300 mile radius for the games. Opponents outside this radius are also not allowed on the schedule.

So he transferred this season to Ypsi Prep, an independent team founded by his father, Elgin Bates. Smith says the idea behind the team is similar to what Oak Hill Academy in Virginia or IMG Academy in Florida have become – schools that play national programs and are factories for Division I talent. and the NBA.

With Smith wanting to bring Bates and the team to Texas, Ypsi Prep has played in the state before, losing to Duncanville 79-65 at this year’s Thanksgiving Hoopfest in Dallas.

Hightower – ranked third in the TABC 5A poll and featuring popular junior guard Bryce Griggs – was originally scheduled to play Ypsi Prep before retiring from the Houston event, allowing Spring Legacy to take his place. Legacy was originally intended to play Shadow Creek.

Legacy is one of the more interesting teams in the Houston area. The charter school, which competes in the Texas Christian Athletic League, includes Ashton Smith, a senior entry from Texas A&M, 6-9 and Sir Issac Herron, 6-9 Lamar High School, along with a host of other talent. of Division I.

Legacy fell to Duncanville, the state’s highest-ranked 6A team, 86-85 in triple overtime last week.

“I’m excited because of the unknowns that come with Legacy,” Smith said. “These are the new kids in the neighborhood. While people will want to see them play, a lot of people will want to see them lose just because they are the new kids in the neighborhood. Their coach (PJ Couisnard) really embraced both sides of this. His team have embraced that and are playing some really good basketball. “

Thanks to events like Holiday Hoopfest, local teams always find reputable out-of-district games during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Shadow Creek coach David President is grateful. One of the notable victories for his out-of-district team is against Oak Cliff Faith Family, the top-ranked 4A team in the state.

Shadow Creek includes senior forward and University of Houston signing Ramon Walker, who will play in his future home arena on Saturday.

“We’re just lucky to be there, lucky to have the opportunity to play,” said the president. “Glad to be able to compete at a high level, to compete with great programs in the state of Texas, and to be on a platform like Holiday Hoopfest. “

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