Tamar Bates is an obvious fit for Indiana because he can shoot, and the Hoosiers need nothing more than they need shooters.
Under newly-hired head coach Mike Woodson, they are trying to run a four-out, one-in offense, and to do that, they need 3-point shooters to keep the floor spread. They ranked last in the Big Ten a season ago with 158 made 3-pointers and guards Armaan Franklin and Aljami Durham, who were responsible for 74 of those, transferred out. If Bates could contribute nothing other than more 3-point shots, that alone might be worth the scholarship.
But according to his high school coaches, Bates brings a lot more than that, which is why he’s a four-star recruit and the No. 56 player in the Class of 2021.
His jumper is still his most noticeable tool. He shot 46 percent from beyond the arc at Piper High School in Kansas City, Kan., as a junior and about 40 percent at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., in 2020-21. He has a smooth left-handed stroke and he can hit from very deep and from various positions.
“He shoots off the bounce, he can shoot set,” IMG Academy coach Sean McAloon said. “Any time you have shooting, it will space the floor. Shooting 40 (percent) and above is exceptional and he was exceptional. You have to respect his shooting.”
Bates didn’t get as many shots this season as he did at Piper because IMG is a national program that draws from around the country. The offense was built around Jaden Bradley, a point guard and the No. 7 player in the Class of 2022, and Bates averaged about 11 points per game according to McAloon playing around him.
At Piper, Bates did just about everything and proved he could make shots all over the floor. He averaged 21.3 points per game as a junior when he was named Kansas Class 4A State Player of the Year and the DiRenna Award given annually to the best player in Kansas City, including city players on both sides of the Kansas-Missouri border. He shot 46 percent from 3 that season and 56 percent from the floor.
“Tamar is a tremendous and very efficient shooter,” former Piper coach and Shawnee Mission Northwest coach David Birch said by e-mail. “He is so reliable shooting the basketball because of the work he puts in to make himself a great shooter. Tamar takes around 500 shots a day outside of practice time. He works on a variety of moves, shooting and scoring at multiple levels, both off the catch, and off the bounce. The work he puts in off the court makes him a great threat to shoot and score the basketball from anywhere on the court. His range extends out to NBA range, and has a left handed smooth stroke that goes in at a very high rate.”
Bates can also get to the rim and finish, make plays off the bounce and pass. He averaged 4.0 assists per game at Piper and he got opportunities to run the point and play in ball-screen actions with IMG Academy, especially when Bradley was off the floor.
“He ran some point for us at times, so he became better at ball-screen situations and all that sort of stuff,” McAloon said. “He was always a scorer and he really learned how to make plays and distribute.”
On the defensive end, he’s exceptional because he has always cared about it.
“Growing up, it was instilled in me, really,” Bates said. “My dad instilled in me and my brother how important defense is and how much you can help a team if you can stop a player on the other team, or at least limit him in what he’s used to doing, disrupting him. It’s really just a want-to, really. I don’t want people to be able to say they scored on me.”
He has the tools to keep opponents from doing so. He’s 6-foot-5 with a bigger wingspan with lateral agility to keep ball-handlers in front of him and length to be able to guard bigger wings.
“He guarded the best player on the other team for us at Piper and from the games I watched at IMG it looked like they had him doing the same thing for their team,” Birch said by e-mail. “What makes Tamar special is his competitive spirit. Tamar is an absolute “dog” on the court. He keeps himself in great condition through the work he puts in outside of practice and his conditioning allows him to be not only a very effective offensive player, but a great defensive player as well.”
Said McAloon: “Defense is something he really prides himself in. As an on-ball defender, he’ll take somebody out of the game. Constant energy. Takes it personal every matchup that he has.”
He’s also better equipped from a physical standpoint for everything he has to do after a year in the strength training program at IMG. McAloon said he arrived weighing about 170 pounds and estimates that he’s approximately 185 now. He averaged 5.1 rebounds per game as a junior at Piper and he’s more explosive now.
“His body has definitely changed,” McAloon said. “If you saw pictures of him from before when he got here to where he is now, he’s a different man. He put the time in with nutrition, he put the time in in the weight room. It’s just day and night. He was wiry and skinny. Now he’s got muscle and definition. I don’t know exactly what it is, but you can see it.”
And both coaches saw what he’s capable of bringing to the locker room. He was team captain at Piper, unanimously elected, and operated as one of the leaders at IMG though he was playing with other nationally rated stars and was only there for a year. He earned respect by example which allowed him to hold others accountable.
“He’s special,” McAloon said. “They’re getting a hell of a player.”
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