Emoni Bates, Andrew Wiggins and the danger of hype

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Emoni Bates set the college basketball and NBA world on fire on Monday afternoon when he announced that he has committed to Michigan State.

If you don’t know that name by now, it’s time to familiarize yourself.

A 6-foot-9 forward from Ypsilanti, Michigan, Bates is 16 years old and a member of the Class of 2022. He’s also widely considered the best prospect in high school basketball today. He’s the youngest player to ever with the Gatorade National High School Player of the Year award, doing it as a sophomore. According to one long-time high school scout that I spoke with at last summer’s Peach Jam, Bates was hands-down the best freshman that he had evaluated since a guy named LeBron James.

Heard of him?

I am steadfastly against comparing high schoolers to the best players in the NBA because it feeds the hype, but it is impossible to watch Bates’ elite mix of handle and shot-making ability at 6-foot-9 and not come away thinking that you just watched the second-coming of Kevin Durant.

And this is where I switch up the tone of this column.

This is where I urge the rest of my colleagues in the media and content creation business to tone it down, to keep the hype train from going totally off the rails.


Two words: Andrew Wiggins.

MORE: What is the G League pathway program?

The last player that had this level of national hype this early in his high school career was Wiggins. The Ben Simmons bandwagon didn’t really fill up until his freshman season started. Zion Williamson wasn’t ranked as the No. 1 prospect in his own recruiting class by any of the reputable outlets. There’s a case to be made for Deandre Ayton and Marvin Bagley III, and there’s a conversation needs to be had about Harry Giles and his knees, but for my money, the answer here is Wiggins.

He was the clear-cut No. 1 prospect in a recruiting class that many expected to change the future of the sport, and he was considered the consensus best prospect in high school basketball starting his sophomore season.

Today, he’s widely considered somewhere between a flop and a bust despite the fact that, as a 24-year old six seasons into his NBA career, he’s averaging 19.7 points and by 2023 will have banked $170 million. Nothing about that is unsuccessful, and to be frank, the way his career has played out justified the hype he had in high school.

I’d argue that, barring catastrophic injury, Wiggins today is a bottom-10th percentile outcome for the player that Wiggins was as a 16-year old. He’s an elite athlete that has never been able to figure it out defensively. He’s a very capable scorer that has never developed into more than an average shooter at best. He never learned how to be a playmaker. The lack of a killer instinct that came to the forefront during his one-and-done season at Kansas turned out to be a real concern in the NBA.

And despite all of that, he’s still, at an absolute minimum, one of the 75-best people in the world at doing his job.

I’d argue that’s evidence the hype was legitimate. He’s still this good despite being at the bottom of his range of outcomes.

I’d also argue that’s evidence that the hype is the reason Wiggins will never be viewed as a success.

Which brings me back to Bates.

I do think there’s a world where Bates follows a similar career path to Wiggins. He’s a slender, 165 pounds with a frame that doesn’t look like it can support all that much more added weight. How will he develop as a defender? We know what he is as a scorer right now, but how will he develop as a playmaker? More importantly, he measured at 6-foot-9 with a 6-foot-9 wingspan at the Nike Top 100 camp last summer. I mention this because Durant has a wingspan that checks in at 7-foot-4, and while he’s listed at 6-foot-9, everybody with a pulse knows that he’s a 7-foot shooting guard.

Is Bates “simply” an elite prospect that just so happened to grow, maintain his coordination and develop his skill-set at an earlier age than anyone else?

Put another way, is Bates the best freshman prospect or the best freshman player since LeBron? Because there is a difference.

Point being, Bates’ floor in the NBA is a bucket-getting wing. I’d be shocked if he didn’t end up averaging 20 points, if not much more, at the next level. I wouldn’t be shocked if he turned out to be a perennial NBA All-Star, either; at the very least, I don’t think anyone is going to question this kid’s killer instinct. And yes, there is a real chance that Emoni Bates is one day discussed as the best basketball player in the world.

These are all in his range of outcomes.

When you can say a 16-year old’s floor is a career-20 point scorer that is on track to earn upwards of $300-million in his NBA career, it’s clear we’re dealing with someone special.

But that’s not the way this story is going to be told. The narrative will be one extreme or the other. Either Bates lives up to the hype and enters his name in the race for the GOAT, or he’s a bust that was completely overhyped by click-bait artists trying to garner some YouTube subs.

The truth, however, is this: Bates could be Durant. He could also be Wiggins. The most likely outcome is that he’s ends up somewhere in the middle. That’s the way these things usually work, and until we, the media, are able to talk about prospects like this and think about players in this manner, we should avoid crowning high school sophomores as the best in the world.

Hype in dangerous when it cannot be kept in context.

Andrew Wiggins is the proof.

Biden celebrates LSU women’s and UConn men’s basketball teams at separate White House events


WASHINGTON – All of the past drama and sore feelings associated with Louisiana State’s invitation to the White House were seemingly forgotten or set aside Friday as President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcomed the championship women’s basketball team to the mansion with smiles, hugs and lavish praise all around.

The visit had once appeared in jeopardy after Jill Biden suggested that the losing Iowa team be invited, too. But none of that was mentioned as both Bidens heralded the players for their performance and the way they have helped advance women’s sports.

“Folks, we witnessed history,” the president said. “In this team, we saw hope, we saw pride and we saw purpose. It matters.”

The ceremony was halted for about 10 minutes after forward Sa’Myah Smith appeared to collapse as she and her teammates stood behind Biden. A wheelchair was brought in and coach Kim Mulkey assured the audience that Smith was fine.

LSU said in a statement that Smith felt overheated, nauseous and thought she might faint. She was evaluated by LSU and White House medical staff and was later able to rejoin the team. “She is feeling well, in good spirits, and will undergo further evaluation once back in Baton Rouge,” the LSU statement said.

Since the passage of Title IX in 1972, Biden said, more than half of all college students are women, and there are now 10 times more female athletes in college and high school. He said most sports stories are still about men, and that that needs to change.

Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded education programs and activities.

“Folks, we need to support women sports, not just during the championship run but during the entire year,” President Biden said.

After the Tigers beat Iowa for the NCAA title in April in a game the first lady attended, she caused an uproar by suggesting that the Hawkeyes also come to the White House.

LSU star Angel Reese called the idea “A JOKE” and said she would prefer to visit with former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, instead. The LSU team largely is Black, while Iowa’s top player, Caitlin Clark, is white, as are most of her teammates.

Nothing came of Jill Biden’s idea and the White House only invited the Tigers. Reese ultimately said she would not skip the White House visit. She and co-captain Emily Ward presented team jerseys bearing the number “46” to Biden and the first lady. Hugs were exchanged.

Jill Biden also lavished praise on the team, saying the players showed “what it means to be a champion.”

“In this room, I see the absolute best of the best,” she said, adding that watching them play was “pure magic.”

“Every basket was pure joy and I kept thinking about how far women’s sports have come,” the first lady added, noting that she grew up before Title IX was passed. “We’ve made so much progress and we still have so much more work to do.”

The president added that “the way in which women’s sports has come along is just incredible. It’s really neat to see, since I’ve got four granddaughters.”

After Smith was helped to a wheelchair, Mulkey told the audience the player was OK.

“As you can see, we leave our mark where we go,” Mulkey joked. “Sa’Myah is fine. She’s kind of, right now, embarrassed.”

A few members of Congress and Biden aides past and present with Louisiana roots dropped what they were doing to attend the East Room event, including White House budget director Shalanda Young. Young is in the thick of negotiations with House Republicans to reach a deal by the middle of next week to stave off what would be a globally calamitous U.S. financial default if the U.S. can no longer borrow the money it needs to pay its bills.

The president, who wore a necktie in the shade of LSU’s purple, said Young, who grew up in Baton Rouge, told him, “I’m leaving the talks to be here.” Rep. Garret Graves, one of the House GOP negotiators, also attended.

Biden closed sports Friday by changing to a blue tie and welcoming the UConn’s men’s championship team for its own celebration. The Huskies won their fifth national title by defeating San Diego State, 76-59, in April.

“Congratulations to the whole UConn nation,” he said.

Marquette’s Prosper says he will stay in draft rather than returning to school

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MILWAUKEE — Olivier-Maxence Prosper announced he is keeping his name under NBA draft consideration rather than returning to Marquette.

The 6-foot-8 forward announced his decision.

“Thank you Marquette nation, my coaches, my teammates and support staff for embracing me from day one,” Prosper said in an Instagram post. “My time at Marquette has been incredible. With that being said, I will remain in the 2023 NBA Draft. I’m excited for what comes next. On to the next chapter…”

Prosper had announced last month he was entering the draft. He still could have returned to school and maintained his college eligibility by withdrawing from the draft by May 31. Prosper’s announcement indicates he instead is going ahead with his plans to turn pro.

Prosper averaged 12.5 points and 4.7 rebounds last season while helping Marquette go 29-7 and win the Big East’s regular-season and tournament titles. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

He played two seasons at Marquette after transferring from Clemson, where he spent one season.

Kansas’ Kevin McCullar Jr. returning for last season of eligibility

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Kevin McCullar Jr. said that he will return to Kansas for his final year of eligibility, likely rounding out a roster that could make the Jayhawks the preseason No. 1 next season.

McCullar transferred from Texas Tech to Kansas for last season, when he started 33 of 34 games and averaged 10.7 points and 7.0 rebounds. He was also among the nation’s leaders in steals, and along with being selected to the Big 12’s all-defensive team, the 6-foot-6 forward was a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award.

“To be able to play in front of the best fans in the country; to play for the best coach in the nation, I truly believe we have the pieces to hang another banner in the Phog,” McCullar said in announcing his return.

Along with McCullar, the Jayhawks return starters Dajuan Harris Jr. and K.J. Adams from a team that went 28–8, won the Big 12 regular-season title and was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where it lost to Arkansas in the second round.

Perhaps more importantly, the Jayhawks landed Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson, widely considered the best player in the portal, to anchor a lineup that was missing a true big man. They also grabbed former five-star prospect Arterio Morris, who left Texas, and Towson’s Nick Timberlake, who emerged last season as one of the best 3-point shooters in the country.

The Jayhawks also have an elite recruiting class arriving that is headlined by five-star recruit Elmarko Jackson.

McCullar declared for the draft but, after getting feedback from scouts, decided to return. He was a redshirt senior last season, but he has another year of eligibility because part of his career was played during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a big day for Kansas basketball,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “Kevin is not only a terrific player but a terrific teammate. He fit in so well in year one and we’re excited about what he’ll do with our program from a leadership standpoint.”

Clemson leading scorer Hall withdraws from NBA draft, returns to Tigers

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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson leading scorer PJ Hall is returning to college after withdrawing from the NBA draft on Thursday.

The 6-foot-10 forward took part in the NBA combine and posted his decision to put off the pros on social media.

Hall led the Tigers with 15.3 points per game this past season. He also led the Tigers with 37 blocks, along with 5.7 rebounds. Hall helped Clemson finish third in the Atlantic Coast Conference while posting a program-record 14 league wins.

Clemson coach Brad Brownell said Hall gained experience from going through the NBA’s combine that will help the team next season. “I’m counting on him and others to help lead a very talented group,” he said.

Hall was named to the all-ACC third team last season as the Tigers went 23-10.

George Washington adopts new name ‘Revolutionaries’ to replace ‘Colonials’

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WASHINGTON — George Washington University’s sports teams will now be known as the Revolutionaries, the school announced.

Revolutionaries replaces Colonials, which had been GW’s name since 1926. Officials made the decision last year to drop the old name after determining it no longer unified the community.

GW said 8,000 different names were suggested and 47,000 points of feedback made during the 12-month process. Revolutionaries won out over the other final choices of Ambassadors, Blue Fog and Sentinels.

“I am very grateful for the active engagement of our community throughout the development of the new moniker,” president Mark S. Wrighton said. “This process was truly driven by our students, faculty, staff and alumni, and the result is a moniker that broadly reflects our community – and our distinguished and distinguishable GW spirit.”

George the mascot will stay and a new logo developed soon for the Revolutionaries name that takes effect for the 2023-24 school year. The university is part of the Atlantic 10 Conference.