The MHSAA 6A-1 Region basketball Player of the Year will be trading inside baskets and rebounds for outside jumpers and three-pointers next season. DeSoto Central’s Jay Bates has signed a scholarship offer to play next year at NCAA Division II Christian Brothers University in Memphis.
Despite a 10-18 season record, it was Bates that led the Jaguars into the postseason, where Clinton surprised DeSoto Central 52-42 in the 6A playoffs’ first round.
Bates, also an all-district selection for the Jaguars, received team awards for best offense and most rebounds, with points and rebounds coming from inside.
However, longtime CBU coach Mike Nienaber fashions Bates as a producer from outside the paint for the Bucs.
“Coach Nienaber and his team there can help me develop as a three-point shooter,” Bates said. “All of my high school career, I’ve been playing to be rebounding and scoring, so he will be able to help me get that guard play and help me with my jump shot.”
The Bucs will look to have Bates score at the level he reached with the Jaguars, where he netted career game highs of 30 points against South Panola and 28 against Southaven this season.
He finished the year with an 18 point-per-game scoring average while grabbing nine rebounds a game for the Jags.
“He became one of our hardest workers, not only on the basketball floor but in the classroom,” said DeSoto Central coach William Bentley. “Watching him over the course of four years was just amazing. Getting an opportunity to go to school and use basketball as a tool to get in school is what makes it that much better for him.”
Bates said he is looking forward to playing for Nienaber, whose team this year reached the Gulf South Conference semifinals before falling to West Florida 68-58.
“I like him as a coach, he’s welcomed me in like a family,” Bates said. “He’s a father to me, just like coach Bentley was.”
Bates won’t be the only DeSoto County basketball player wearing a CBU uniform next season, however. Hernando native Jacob Lyons, who played high school ball at Christian Brothers High School, was on the CBU roster as a freshman this year.
“I can’t wait to see what happens when he goes from high school to college because his will and determination is second to none and he wants to be able to achieve his goals and accept those challenges that lie in front of him,” Bentley said.
Bob Bakken is Sports Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.