The first thing that stood out about Tamar Bates when he walked into the room for IU basketball’s media day in late September was his physique.
Once referred to as “light in the butt” by head coach Mike Woodson, Bates is now a solidly put together true freshman who has the basketball skills to go with the physical attributes. He is also not light on confidence, and collectively all of that should propel Bates to a big role from the jump.
“He’s a cocky kid that is not scared and I kind of like that in him,” Woodson said before the team left for The Bahamas in August.
In The Bahamas, Bates was a standout performer who left no doubt he would see significant playing time this year.
Although he came off the bench, Bates was Indiana’s second leading scorer for the trip. He scored 14 points in 18 minutes in game one, and showed he is a threat from anywhere on the court. With good elevation and length, Bates doesn’t need much room to get his shot off, and he knows how to create the space to get those openings.
Over two games Bates scored 23 points in 45 minutes while being efficient and taking care of the ball. He had just one turnover over the course of the two games, mainly because Bates doesn’t get sped up and doesn’t force the action. Instead the points came because his game is polished and well-rounded.
That Woodson wasn’t particularly surprised by how well Bates played in The Bahamas was noteworthy. The bottom line — this is an 18-year-old the staff expects to do big things as a true freshman.
“He’s like what we thought he would be when we recruited him, you know he’s not scared of the moment you know that’s kind of how I liked him when I was watching game film on him,” Woodson said after Bates’ debut performance.
Bates credits his ability to step in and play confident right away to his work behind the scenes.
“I’m a firm believer in reps remove doubt,” Bates said. “I work out a lot and I put the work in, and I feel like when I put that time in I have the right to be confident in my ability and believe in myself.”
In so many ways he played like a third or fourth year player in The Bahamas and is clearly ready to make an impact at the high major level. But that he is even here in Bloomington right now is a story of good fortune for IU. Bates was originally committed to play for Texas before Shaka Smart left that job — right around the same time Archie Miller was fired at Indiana.
A national top-25 recruit in the class of 2021, the Kansas City, Kan. product averaged 22.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4 assists and 2.0 steals as a junior for a 23-1 Piper team that might have won back-to-back Kansas state championships were it not for the pandemic. Bates went on to further develop at the IMG Academy for his senior season.
The stars aligned and Mike Woodson’s first high school recruit became IU’s highest rated prospect since Romeo Langford. Bates is happy with the change of plans and looks forward to leading the Woodson era.
“Just like with my story how I was originally committed to Texas and you know how I just ended up here, I feel like it was just all in in my plans and ended up at Indiana so I definitely feel like I’m here at the right time you know being like the first wave of players like the first team that coach Woodson has under him at Indiana,” Bates said at the IU media day.
(Note: Bates is considered day-to-day with a minor issue and he could miss the season opener according to Mike Woodson)
- Xavier Johnson can change the game with his speed.
- Trayce Jackson-Davis can improve even without the jump shot and right hand
- Race Thompson is expected to shoot the ball
- Michael Durr gives IU much-needed size
- Logan Duncomb plans to hustle his way to floor
- Khristian Lander in a good environment to develop and reach his potential
- Miller Kopp can help cure what has ailed IU from 3-point range
- Trey Galloway can thrive in Indiana’s new offensive system
- Rob Phinisee hoping to pull it all together in year four
- Anthony Leal bought in on Mike Woodson’s vision
- Parker Stewart ready to restart his career
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