UK Recruiting

Kentucky? Duke? Top recruit Patrick Baldwin Jr. likes both basketball powers so far.

Asked to describe his game, five-star basketball recruit Patrick Baldwin Jr. isn’t bragging when he says what he does best on the court. He’s simply stating the obvious.

“One of the main things everybody points out is that I shoot the ball really well,” Baldwin said.

That’s an understatement.

Listed at 6-foot-10 and ranked by as the No. 3 recruit in the 2021 class, Baldwin has one of the prettiest strokes in the high school game, and his height and high-release point make it pretty much impossible for defenders to contest.

During the regular season on the Nike circuit this year, he shot 40 percent from long range, making 30 threes in just 12 games. And that came after the league extended its three-point line to the international distance.

“He fits today’s game to a T, right?” said national analyst Corey Evans. “He’s a 6-9, 6-10 combo forward that can shoot the heck out of the ball. And today’s game is so reliant on making shots. He’s getting more athletic. He’s getting bigger. He’s getting stronger. He’s tough. His dad is the head coach at Milwaukee, so you know he has an IQ for the game.

“When you’re talking about safe prospects — guys that are going to make it — I’m going to bet on him.”

There’s not a right-minded college coach in America that wouldn’t love to have Baldwin — a high school junior from Milwaukee — on his team a couple of years from now. Kentucky, Duke, Michigan, UCLA, Georgetown, Wisconsin and Northwestern have all been in to see him this fall. His father, Milwaukee Coach Pat Baldwin, is also recruiting him, though the younger Baldwin’s college path probably leads elsewhere.

“You have to assume Duke is going to be one of the schools to watch here. But I think Kentucky is going to be there,” Evans said. “You’re going to have most of the Big Ten recruiting him, but, at the end of the day, when push comes to shove, it’s hard to turn down Kentucky and Duke.”

Early Duke offer

The narrative surrounding Baldwin’s recruitment over the past year or so has been that he’s all but a Duke lock. He earned a scholarship offer from the Blue Devils last summer, and national recruiting expert Andrew Slater reported at the time that Baldwin was believed to be the youngest recruit that Mike Krzyzewski had ever offered.

“Any time you bring up Coach K, eyes light up,” Baldwin told the Herald-Leader. “Nothing but great things to say about him. And the Duke staff as a whole is just a great staff. I’ve built a really good relationship with them over the years. They offered me early, so they’ve had a long time to build a relationship with me.”

Baldwin’s father — a former Northwestern player — was an assistant coach at that program under Coach K disciple Chris Collins before getting the top job at Milwaukee. Baldwin Jr. also said he met Duke assistant coach Jon Scheyer, the Blue Devils’ top recruiter, at a young age.

The 16-year-old heaped praise on the Duke program, then added a disclaimer: “No favorites, though, right now.”

UK Coach John Calipari came through with a scholarship offer over the summer, and he and assistant coach Tony Barbee have both been to Milwaukee recently to meet with Baldwin.

“You just see all the players that go through the program and improve day by day. And then they get to achieve the goal of the NBA,” he said. “Coach Calipari — that whole staff — is somebody that I really think highly of. And, when I talked with them when they came to visit my school — he just blew me away by his professionalism and everything that he had to say about his program.”

A thoughtful recruit

Baldwin is taking a calculated approach to his basketball future, on the court and off.

Having a father who has played and coached the sport at the highest levels in college has been a great benefit for Baldwin, but he’s no overbearing dad when it comes to basketball. The elder Baldwin puts the onus on his son to seek out advice.

“Just having him literally down the hall — being able to talk to him and run things off of him — is something that’s really special to me,” Baldwin Jr. said. “He is a big advocate for, ‘If you have a question, you ask it.’ So, that’s my responsibility to ask him a question. He’s not going to come to me and point out something that I need to improve on. That’s my job to ask, ‘What do I need to improve on? How can I attack this?’

“So, it’s basically up to me to ask all the questions, and he provides all the answers for them.”

The younger Baldwin must be asking a lot of questions, because his game is clearly growing.

He said a main emphasis in recent months has been attacking the basket offensively, not just settling for the outside shots.

“I just think scoring on multiple levels is what I do a lot now,” he said. “Defensively, I’m still developing. I’m a long defender. I’m definitely more comfortable switching out multiple positions now than I was in the past. I’m making big strides defensively right now.”

With two more years of high school basketball in front of him, Baldwin is in no hurry to make a college decision. He said he and his family have yet to sit down and seriously discuss his options at the next level. He said most of his official visits probably won’t happen until next summer or fall.

When that time comes, Kentucky should be a major factor.

“They will definitely be at the top of the list,” he said.

The ball is entirely in Baldwin’s court when it comes to recruiting, and he knows it. He’ll be a key player for whichever college he ultimately chooses. He’s not about to rush that decision.

“It’s just focusing on the now. College recruitment is always going to be there,” he said. “I’ll always be fortunate to be able to play for a program and go to college for free. So you want to take it as slow as possible and make sure you make the right decision the first time, because you see a lot of players make the wrong decision the first time, end up transferring, and the next thing you know they feel like they’ve wasted their entire college career.

“So it’s really important to make the right decision the first time.”

Ben Roberts covers UK basketball, football and other sports for the Lexington Herald-Leader and has specialized in UK basketball recruiting for the past several years. He also maintains the Next Cats recruiting blog, which features the latest news on the Wildcats’ recruiting efforts.
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