Their paths crossed Wednesday night at the Nike NKE Peach Jam here in North Augusta, S.C., when the 6-foot-9 Bates scored 13 of his 22 points (on 6-of-18 shooting) in the fourth quarter to lead his Bates Fundamental team to a 73-72 victory over a Strive for Greatness team featuring Bronny James with LeBron serving as an assistant coach. The game was played in the consolation bracket after both teams were eliminated last week from contention for the prestigious Peach Jam title.
Despite the fact that no fans are allowed at Peach Jam this year due to the pandemic, the game was played in a packed gym featuring Carmelo Anthony and NBA Draft prospect Jonathan Kuminga among those in courtside seats, and girls teams, their families, support personnel, N.B.A. scouts and boys players crowded into the bleacher seats.
As the pandemic rages on due to the Covid-19 Delta variant, several top players did not compete at the event Wednesday because of Covid protocols and a security official walked through the crowd Wednesday night handing out masks to those who needed them and encouraging everyone to wear one.
But Bates wowed the crowd by draining three 3-pointers as part of a 21-12 fourth-quarter run by Bates Fundamental. Nike is not making players or coaches available for interviews during the event.
Bates is currently the ninth-leading scorer in the EYBL at 19.6 points per game, but also ranks eighth in turnovers at 3.1 per game.
Bates is still ranked the No. 1 small forward in the Class of 2022 but there is a sense among NBA scouts and college coaches that his game hasn’t progressed as much as it could have in the last year or two. He once graced the cover of Sports Illustrated and was hyped as the next Durant. Just last November, NBA experts were saying he would have been the No. 1 pick in last year’s draft — which ultimately became Georgia guard Anthony Edwards. But those comparisons don’t seem fair now. Bates remains thin and though talented, he sometimes gets overpowered down low by his peers. He shot 6-of-18 Wednesday and was bullied at times in the paint by the other team’s bigs.
“He’s a very talented young man but there needs to be a change in how he’s playing and his coaching,” said one NBA scout in attendance. “He’s very talented.”
In May, after Bates decommitted from Michigan State, ESPN draft guru Jonathan Givony did a deep dive on his game, concluding with: “He’s probably not going to end up being the generational talent that some hoped he would become when he was 14, but I think he’s got a great chance to be the best player in his class still and an NBA All-Star if he can get his development back on track.”
Bates’ Crystal Ball on 247Sports.com is currently 100% in favor of him going the professional route.
Whatever the case, he won’t be eligible for the NBA Draft until 2023, when he turns 19, meaning he still has two years before he can play in the NBA. He turns 18 on Jan. 28.
“Let’s just put it like this,” his father Elgin said earlier this year, “whatever options that are available to him, we will lay them out and present them to him, but the ultimate decision is his.
“If the G League is something he wants to do, if he decides that’s what he wants to do, that’s perfectly fine. He can do the G League. If [college] is what he wants to do, that’s perfectly fine. If he wants to entertain going overseas, that’s perfectly fine. If he just wants to sit out and train for a year, it’s whatever he wants to do. It’s his decision.”