In short, Emoni Bates is pulling anything after he crosses half-court and Jalen Duren is dunking anything in the paint.  

 But who is #1? 

It all depends on how someone looks at it.  For the sake of this article, let’s generally look at which player checks which boxes.  

Physically, Jalen Duren is a monster.  He’s going to tear a rim down one of these days. Calm, collected, POWER

Duren also checks a load of other boxes like athletic ability, an NBA-READY body, demeanor, rebounding, etc, but should he replace Bates at #1. 

As Duren’s mid-range game improves...as do the number of his future NBA ALL-STAR appearances.  The kids a MAN, point blank and he is also a fan favorite.  After the game, kids and fans flocked around him.  I saw him across the court taking selfies WITH fans FROM THEIR phones.  Jalen Duren is a marketers dream.  He gets it and he’s GOT IT!   

Team Final also showed that they are better than Bates Fundamental at the 17U level, but  it still doesn’t solve the one versus two discussion.  Who’s better and should they flip-flop the #1 spot?   

 Emoni Bates versu Jalen Duren

Let’s look at simple basketball math for a second. 40% from 3 is always better than 50% from 2.  12 (4 out of 10 from 3) points always beats 10 (5 out of 10 from 2) points every day of the week.  

While Bates is the epitome of our viral video YouTube society and his following is crazy. 

I am pretty confident that basketball traditionalists may struggle with Emoni’s antics, trash-talking and shot selection.  So, let’s say the basketball purists are right for the sake of argument, what I think they may miss is the value Emoni Bates brings to the game of basketball. 

If you haven’t put pen to paper on evaluating basketball talent and you were asked to do so for the first time, my guess is that you would check more boxes for Duren.  

Personally speaking, I could live without Emoni’s taunting of other players and in my 30-year coaching career, when my players do that, I sit em, end of story.  I’m a firm believer in letting your game speak for itself. 

As I sat down to watch warm-ups, it was quite evident that Duren also checks the box for the “eyeball test,” which I learned long ago that it’s not much of a test, but it’s still fun.   

While I’ve never claimed to know everything about basketball, I do think I have a solid grasp on people and their intentions. See, yesterday 4/24/21 I had the opportunity to check out the Made Hoops event in Indy for 12 hours and got an opportunity to hit the Bates vs Duren spotlight game. 

In my 12 hours, I picked up the super-talented  Bates Fundamental 16U squad a couple times.  I had the opportunity to see the Bates brand up close. In my opinion, it’s simple.  The Bates brand is about kids, it’s about fun, it’s about falling in love with the game we all love.  

After the showcase game, I was still a little torn about who was #1 and who was #2.  I kept going back and forth in my head who I personally felt was #1.  While I actually think rankings are for the birds, I also think they are a necessary evil in the game of basketball.  I didn’t make my final decision until a couple hours after the showcase game.  See, I made it back to the Pacer center to watch the younger, talented 16U Bates team take court and Emoni was on the bench.   

I was actually about 20 feet away from Emoni as I watched a group of young 8-10 year old boys waiting for their next on another court.  As I stood there watching, I noticed these young boys, having fun pounding their chests, bopping their heads and  flexing their arms like Emoni Bates most famously does.  This went on for several minutes and the kids were star-struck, having fun, loving the game within an arms length of Bates.  

Right or wrong, fan or not, Emoni Bates puts butts in seats and could eventually put shoes on feet and I think that’s something we may miss in the world of basketball.   

Basketball is fickle and sometimes needs change, sometimes it needs a little disruption and it’s fair to say that Emoni Bates is disrupting exactly that.  To the basketball purists of the world thinking every kid is going to “act” like Emoni, I would tell you I don’t see that happening and ultimately it’s up to the coach to manage their own teams.  Since we didn’t have kids dye their hair like Dennis Rodman or throw on wedding dresses, I don’t see his approach to be detrimental to the game in any manner.  

In fact, I saw Emoni smiling ear to ear on his 16U teams sidelines, high fiving kids, hopping in pictures and entertaining the crowds.  I am not sure if I was a fan of his prior to seeing him in person based on my beliefs but I am now.  What I saw was a genuine kid who has the weight of the world on his shoulders and while he certainly is a solid player with some room to grow, this young kid is an ENTERTAINER and while he may not check every box, he most definitely checks the BIGGEST BOXES.  


Coach Jason Warner




Scout @MadeHoops -  4/23/21  - 17U
Bates Fundamental (EYBL) vs. Team Final (EYBL) 17U

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