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Tennessee Tagged as a ‘Potential Fit’ for Memphis Transfer Emoni Bates

After an up-and-down freshman season with Penny Hardaway and the Memphis Tigers, Memphis forward Emoni Bates is now in the transfer portal as of Saturday.

Following Bates’ departure into the transfer portal over the weekend, 247Sports writers Isaac Trotter and Travis Branham listed 11 potential landing spots for Bates. Tennessee was one of the 11 teams that were listed.

Besides Tennessee, 247 Sports’ list also includes Baylor, Alabama, Oregon, USC, Texas, Ohio State, Auburn, Arkansas, Michigan, and Kentucky.

Considering three of the teams are from the SEC and Michigan is the one that knocked Tennessee out of the NCAA Tournament, there are certainly some heavy hitters to consider.

“Bates going from Memphis to Tennessee would fire some people up,” Trotter and Branham wrote for 247. “But the fit makes a ton of sense. Tennessee has a huge hole at the 3 right now. The Vols missed out on prized LSU transfer Brandon Murray who ended up picking Georgetown. Bates can handle the ball, but Tennessee has two ball-handlers in Santiago Vescovi and Zakai Zeigler who could take some of that pressure away from him. Bates would also be challenged on the defensive end which could be a really good thing. Rick Barnes demands defense. If Bates transformed into a really good defender at Tennessee, his NBA stock would rise significantly.”

Emoni Bates
Memphis’s Emoni Bates. (AP Photo/Karen Pulfer Focht) AP
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Bates, a 6-foot-9 forward from Ypsilanti, Michigan, went through quite a bit of turmoil in his first season with the Tigers, both on and off the court. The former No. 1 ranked player in the class of 2022 had to miss 15 of the Tigers’ 33 games due to a mid-season back injury, which required him to go home to Michigan for treatment. In addition, Bates just struggled to find his rhythm on the court this year.

In the Tigers’ first three games of the season, Bates was a superstar, scoring 15 or more points in each contest. However, things quickly went downhill, and Bates was only able to reach double-digits in scoring five times for the remainder of the season.

Despite his struggles last season, though, Bates is still a dynamic player and one of the top targets from the portal. Bates averaged 9.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game for Memphis last season.

While Bates was in high school, some expected him to eventually skip the collegiate ranks altogether and play semi-professional basketball until he was eligible for the NBA Draft. When Bates committed to Memphis, though, he reclassified into the 2021 class to be able to play the season.

Due to Bates’ reclassification for his inaugural year in college basketball, the former Memphis forward is currently ineligible to declare for the NBA Draft this summer. Bates officially turned 18 in January, which is the reason for his ineligible status.

Just because Bates cannot be drafted into the NBA doesn’t mean he will return to college basketball. In reality, there are a number of options that a player of his caliber could take. Bates could wind up playing for a team like Overtime Elite or try to play for a team in the G-League before declaring for the 2023 NBA Draft.

The Tennessee Volunteers have lost a total of six players since the last season ended. Supersenior forward John Fulkerson graduated, Kennedy Chandler has declared for the NBA Draft, and Victor Bailey Jr, Quentin Dibounje, Brandon Huntley-Hatfield, and Handje Tamba all entered the transfer portal.

In addition, Tennessee guard Santiago Vescovi did enter his name into the NBA Draft, but still possesses the option to return to Tennessee for another season.

Tennessee hasn’t been able to pluck any player out of the transfer portal yet, but as the article mentioned, not for a lack of trying. The Vols have pursued standout players such as Nijel Pack and Brandon Murray, but have not been able to land anyone just yet. Tennessee’s only confirmed addition for next year is four-star point guard B.J. Edwards from the class of 2022.

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