Emoni Bates, a one-time high-school basketball phenom in Ypsilanti, has been reinstated to his hometown Eastern Michigan basketball team by the university following his arrest on felony gun charges last month.
Bates is pleading down to a misdemeanor charge, his lawyer confirmed Thursday, and EMU subsequently confirmed his updated status with the team. Bates returned to practice Thursday afternoon, a school official said, with the exhibition season set to get under way in two weeks.
“The Eastern Michigan University department of athletics has received notification that there is an agreement between the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office and Emoni Bates’ defense team that would result in the felony charges being dismissed,” Eastern Michigan athletic director Scott Wetherbee said in a statement.
“In accordance with EMU athletic policies, Mr. Bates is immediately reinstated to all athletic and campus activities.”
Bates, 18, will plead down to a misdemeanor charge of attempted illegal transportation of a weapon, his lawyer, Steve Haney, told The News. A hearing is scheduled for 1:30 pm Wednesday in Washtenaw County’s 22nd Circuit Court. Per online records, Bates’ case was moved out of district court earlier this week, and into circuit court Thursday.
Bates was arrested the evening of Sept. 18 following a traffic stop and charged with two felonies, carrying a concealed weapon and altering ID marks on the weapon. Bates’ attorney said at the time that the car Bates was driving didn’t belong to him, nor did the gun. Haney said he stands by those statements in light of the plea deal.
“Those are facts that are undisputed,” Haney told The News. “It’s obviously a very favorable resolution and the prosecutor’s office exercised proper judgment.”
According to a police report obtained by The News from the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department, Bates was pulled over for running a stop sign. Deputies determined Bates, the only person in the car, didn’t have a driver’s license, and Bates admitted there was marijuana and a gun in the vehicle.
“I’m not going to lie to you,” Bates told deputies. “You might as well just hook me up (arrest) right now.”
Deputies searched the car and found a Glock 17C 9-millimeter hand gun that had one of its three serial numbers removed, and couldn’t be traced in the national database. Deputies also recovered a magazine and 17 rounds of ammunition; the gun wasn’t loaded. They also confiscated a bag of marijuana and a scale, as well as several packages of Swisher Sweets and Backwoods cigars; you must be 21 in Michigan to possess marijuana and, as of July, tobacco.
The News also reviewed several clips of deputy camera footage of the traffic stop and arrest.
While handcuffed in the back of a deputy’s car, after being read his Miranda Rights, Bates was allowed to make phone calls, and he called father EJ and mother Edith, separately. The calls were on speaker phone with his hands cuffed behind his back. Bates was in tears when his mother answered the first call: “Momma, I’m going to jail.” Bates told his mother deputies had “caught” him with a gun and weed. She told him repeatedly, “It’s OK, just calm down.” In a subsequent call with EJ, his father told him: “Listen to me. Don’t say nothing, man.”
Bates, wearing a red track suit, was then transported to the Washtenaw County Jail, where he was released without bail the following day.
The vehicle, a 2022 black Mitsubishi Outlander registered to a business called BMGT LLC based in Memphis, Tennessee — where Bates played college basketball last season — was towed and impounded.
“Were mistakes made that night? Yeah,” Haney said. “Unfortunately, this 18-year-old, when he makes a mistake, the whole world’s gonna know about it. … This is a fair outcome.”
Washtenaw County prosecutor Eli Savit declined comment on the plea deal “until after the judicial process is concluded.” EJ Bates has not returned multiple messages seeking comment from The News.
A probable-cause hearing was held last week, when Bates pleaded not guilty to the felony charges, and his next court date was set for Nov. 16, though Haney was working on expediting the process to get Bates back on the court. Eastern Michigan’s season starts Oct. 27 with an exhibition against Grand Valley State, then a Nov. 7 regular-season game against Wayne State followed by a high-profile Nov. 11 game against Michigan at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.
It’s unclear if Eastern Michigan required Bates to meet any university conditions, besides the felony charges being dropped, before returning to the team. Wetherbee declined to comment on internal discussions and protocols.
Bates returned to his hometown of Ypsilanti after one up-and-down collegiate season at Memphis, which followed his flirtation with Michigan State and the NBA’s G League. At Memphis, he averaged 9.7 points and 3.3 rebounds, though he missed the final nine regular-season games with a reported injury before returning for the NCAA Tournament. There was strife with teammates, according to reports. He decided to transfer and considered Michigan, Arkansas, DePaul, Louisville and Seton Hall before committing to Eastern Michigan in late June. He officially signed in late August.
“I love my city and coming home to do something special was big for me,” Bates said at the time.
Bates’ addition was a boon for Eastern Michigan, where he reunites with several friends who also are EMU recruits, including forward Legend Geeter (River Rouge and Providence), guard Orlando Lovejoy (Detroit and Romulus Summit Academy North) and guard Tyson Acuff (Detroit Cass Tech and Duquesne). EMU also signed Jalin Billingsley, a transfer forward from Georgetown, and forward Joey “JZ” Zaher, an incoming freshman from Flint Powers Catholic.
Expectations have increased for head coach Stan Heath, in his second year, as the Eagles look to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998. It’s the longest NCAA drought of any Division I team in Michigan.
After Bates’ commitment, Eastern Michigan more than doubled its season-ticket sales, Wetherbee said last month.
When Bates plays for Eastern Michigan, he will be the first former five-star basketball recruit to play in the Mid-American Conference.
“I’m very happy he’s going to be back with his teammates and getting back to what 18-year-olds should be doing,” Haney said. “We want to put this behind Emoni so he can move forward as fast as possible.”
Bates began his high-school career at Ypsilanti Lincoln, leading the team to a state championship as a freshman. He was Gatorade national player of the year in 2020, averaging 32.4 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals. Bates moved over to the new Ypsi Prep Academy, founded by his father, and averaged 24.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists before reclassifying from the Class of 2022 to the Class of 2021, and joining Memphis.
During one game in high school, he scored 63 points with 21 rebounds. At age 15, he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, under the headline, “Born For This.”