BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The UB Bulls extended the nation’s longest February win streak to 14 with a win Tuesday night against a visiting team featuring one of the most intriguing figures in college basketball.

“This is when it really counts. We’re getting ready for March,” said senior forward LaQuill Hardnett, who had 21 points and eight rebounds in the 102-97 victory against Eastern Michigan. “This is when teams want to catch their stride. This is the most important part of the season.”

The Bulls also got 21 points and eight rebounds from Isaiah Adams, who was the primary defender against Eastern Michigan star Emoni Bates. While the 6-foot-10 wing who was once touted as the No. 1 recruit in the country in his high school class had 27 points to raise his Mid-American Conference leading average to 21.3 this season, Adams slowed him down during the early part of the second half when UB pulled away.

“I just tried to make it hard for him all night, and I feel like I did,” said Adams, a transfer from Central Florida who played twice against Bates last year while he was at Memphis. “It is kind of fun playing against high level players who people think are the best of the best.”

Bates has long been regarded as an NBA prospect, and mock drafts currently project him to be selected in the late first or early second round this June. With his rare combination of size and perimeter skills, Bates has drawn comparisons to Kevin Durant from ESPN, and Stephen Curry in a Sports Illustrated cover story titled “Magic, Michael, LeBron … Emoni Bates? Meet the 15-Year-Old Next in Line.”

Bates was the most prominent NBA prospect to play at UB’s Alumni Arena since Jimmer Fredette visited with BYU in December, 2010 before becoming the 10th overall pick the following summer. Hasheem Thabeet, the No. 2 pick in the 2009 draft, played at UB with UConn the previous December. Kemba Walker, the No. 9 pick in the 2011 draft, was a freshman that season, one of five future NBA players on the Huskies.

Two MAC players have been second-round picks in the past two drafts, Ohio’s Jason Preston and Toledo’s Ryan Rollins, but the MAC has not had a lottery prospect since Chris Kaman was drafted with the No. 6 pick out of Central Michigan in 2003, four years after Wally Szczerbiak became a national sensation and was the sixth pick in the 1999 draft.

Bates, who turned 19 last month, held enough name recognition as a high school phenom to start his own AAU program, and recruited Niagara Falls point guard Willie Lightfoot to play with him at one point. He reclassified after his junior year to enroll in a star-crossed recruiting class at Memphis. After averaging 9.7 points in 18 games as a freshman, Bates bypassed other big school in the transfer portal and chose the MAC school in his hometown Ypsilanti, Michigan.

Prior to this basketball season, Bates was arrested on gun charges following a traffic stop. Bates was sentenced to probation after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor and his record could be expunged in 18 months. Bates has not spoken publicly during the season.

Bates opened the season with a 30-point game against Michigan. He scored 36 against South Carolina and 35 in his most recent game, an overtime loss for Eastern Michigan at Ball State. His season-best scoring outing was 43 in a loss at Toledo on Jan. 24. Bates poured in 29 consecutive points for the Eagles in that game, prompting a twitter reaction from LeBron James.

The prolific scoring from Bates hasn’t translated to team success for Eastern Michigan, which is 6-18 on the season and 10th in the MAC at 3-8. In a Dec. 11 loss against Niagara at the Gallagher Center, Bates was held scoreless in the second half after producing 19 points in the first.


Jonah Bronstein joined the News 4 roster in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. Read more of his work here.