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Holmgren tops Bates in No. 1 hoops recruits clash

Chet Holmgren didn’t answer many calls before his national television debut against top-ranked junior Emoni Bates, but there was one guy he had to pick up his phone for early Thursday.

It was Detroit rapper Sada Baby, who also delivered a challenge to ESPN’s No. 1-ranked senior, even while on a trip to Los Angeles, California.

“Do your thing and go out there and get 17 blocks,” Holmgren said the rapper told him.

“I was like, the hell with that, I’m about to go get 30 [points], too,” Holmgren said. “So, I spoke it into existence.”

Not only did Holmgren end with 31 points, he led his AAU team Team Sizzle past Bates’ Ypsi Prep Academy 78-71 in an exhibition game inside the Cardinal Fieldhouse at Concordia University in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He also had 12 rebounds and six blocks.

Holmgren said facing Bates brought out the best in him in a battle of five-star recruits.

“When you’re a competitor like I am, you always want to play against the best,” said Holmgren, who attends Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis. “And that’s the best of the best, cream of the crop. He played a great game tonight, but luckily we were able to come out with the win tonight and it’s always a special experience.”

Holmgren, a 7-foot-1, 195-pound forward, is currently uncommitted but said he intends to play at the collegiate level.

“I’m definitely looking to go to college next year,” Holmgren said. “And I got it down to seven schools right now: Minnesota, Michigan, Memphis, Georgetown, North Carolina, Ohio State and Gonzaga. So I’m looking at those right now, trying to figure it out.”

For Bates, Thursday night marked his debut with Ypsi Prep Academy, after he spent his first two seasons at Lincoln High School in Ypsilanti, Michigan, where he won a state title as a freshman in 2019. His father, Elgin, started the prep school this fall and also serves as head coach. The team also features Michigan State signee Jaden Akins.

Bates ended with a game-high 36 points and 10 rebounds on 11-of-22 shooting.

“It was a good experience,” Bates said. “We’re both No. 1 and competing. We made each other better. That’s all that matters, and we competed. That’s part of the process.”

Bates is currently committed to Michigan State but says he might consider reclassifying to the 2021 class.

“Yeah, it’s been in the thought process,” said Bates, who is the first No. 1 prospect to commit to the Spartans since the ESPN recruiting database started in 2007. “Me and my family have talked about it. I’m just going to ride out for the season, see how the season goes and in the future I’ll make my decision.”

As Bates ponders his basketball future, he continues to recruit elite talent such as Akins to join him on campus if he does end up playing for Spartans coach Tom Izzo.

“To me, Jaden is a real special player, so I’ll keep trying to get people to come there just in case I do consider going there,” Bates said. “I’m going to have people around me, I’m going to have dogs around me, but Jaden is real good. He made big shots today. He just has to get comfortable. It’s new for everybody. They haven’t played in a long time so we’ve just got to get back comfortable.”

For Bates and Holmgren, the goal for the season is simply to get better as basketball players, but they also understand branding at a young age. Bates has more than 350,000 Instagram followers and has formed a friendship with NBA star Kevin Durant, who has told him to “keep grinding” and “stay in the gym.”

In addition to keeping in contact with Sada Baby, two of Holmgren’s teammates, Hercy and Mercy Miller, are the sons of rap mogul Master P, from whom he says he is learning the importance of entrepreneurship.

“It’s endless. Great family, great people and we’re lucky to have them as a part of the family,” Holmgren said. “I beat Master P in a shooting game. He beat me, too. We still gotta get the tiebreaker.”

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