In my time as a student at Eastern Michigan University, I’ve grown to learn that one particular teenager is seen as famous in Ypsilanti. Emoni Bates, the Lincoln High School phenom that has been regarded as one of the best high school players since LeBron James and Zion Williamson, is loved in his city and nationally watched.
Bates, who has led his hometown Railsplitters to a 17-3 record this season, is such an insanely talented player that some people argue he could play in the NBA by the end of his senior year of high school. With a 6’9 frame, elite shooting ability, and undeniable intangibles, Bates is undoubtedly a great NBA prospect.
But even if Bates wanted to play in the NBA after his senior year, he couldn’t. As of right now, the rule is that generally that NBA prospects must spend a year in either college or overseas to be eligible to enter in the NBA Draft. That’s why you see so many one-and-done’s (players who spend one year in college then jump straight to the NBA), like Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett.
Williamson and Barrett were both regarded as ready for the NBA before they entered college, so shouldn’t they have been able to declare for the NBA draft? Players like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant were selected straight out of high school before the rule change, and both of them have become two of the greatest players of all time.
If an NBA team scouts you as a high school player and decides you have the talent to play in the NBA right away, then I see no reason as to why they shouldn’t be able to select you. The rule that high school players have to spend a year in college handicaps those who are past that level of play. It makes them play competition that is below their skill level, and thus limits their growth as a player.
There are also injuries to consider. Injuries can happen to anyone at any time, but let’s say Bates wanted to enter the NBA following his senior year of high school, but was instead forced to enroll in college for a year. In that year of college, let's say he gets injured, and his NBA future is hurt or entirely ruined. Whose fault would that be? A coincidental freak injury might not have happened if he was allowed to be trained and compete at the highest level instead of spending time in college.
A selection to the NBA is virtually a guarantee that you will become a millionaire. An NBA contract alone can bring hundreds of thousands of dollars, not considering endorsements and jersey sales. Young players are becoming nervous to risk that money on a year in college, as a potential injury can cripple NBA dreams. You see players like James Wiseman, who was supposed to be playing his freshman year at Memphis this season, sit out due to frustrating NCAA rulings and fear of injury.
This could become an ongoing trend in highly talented college freshman. Why risk millions of dollars when you could just sit out entirely? Why were they in college in the first place?
All of these issues could be solved if the NBA abolished the rule that requires players to compete in one year of collegiate play. Those that are good enough after high school enter the NBA, and those who aren’t can develop in college. It’s the best option for all parties and allows NBA talent to get what they deserve.
I hope that by the time Bates is a senior that we see him go straight from the Ypsilanti hardwood to an NBA arena.