Star high schooler Emoni Bates has been named the 2019-20 Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
Bates becomes the first sophomore to ever receive the honor. Award winners are typically surprised in person while surrounded by their family, friends, teammates and coaches. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Gatorade surprised Bates digitally via a wave of tweets from multiple professional athletes, including Jayson Tatum and Dwyane Wade.
Bates, a Ypsilanti, Mich., native, led Lincoln High to a 19–3 record and appeared in 21 games. He averaged 32.4 points, 9.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.2 steals per game this season. Last month, he scored 31 points in the Railsplitters' loss to Ann Arbor Huron in the Division 1, District 18 tournament finals.
The 6'9", 180 lbs. forward has already been compared to Kevin Durant and is expected to be a No. 1 NBA draft pick. Sports Illustrated featured Bates on its Nov. 4, 2019, cover, and writer Michael Rosenberg explored how the sophomore could potentially become one of the greatest basketball players ever.
Gatorade surprised Bates by sharing the announcement with him virtually, through tweets from NBA stars, including Jayson Tatum and Dwyane Wade.
Gatorade chose Bates for the award not only for his excellence on the court but off it as well. He has volunteered locally at elementary school literacy outreach campaigns and as a youth basketball coach. Bates has also donated his time collecting clothes and shoes to give to community churches and groups in need.
He is now a finalist for the most prestigious award in high school sports, the Gatorade Male High School Athlete of the Year award, which is announced in July.