Patrick Baldwin Jr. could have decided to play at Duke, joined what would have been the top ranked recruiting class in the nation and tried to help Mike Krzyzewski win his sixth national championship.
That would have made sense. No one would have blinked.
But all things considered – and be sure it was there masses of things to consider – it was surprising Wednesday morning when the five-star prospect announced that he was giving the opportunity to become the next big Blue Devil instead of staying home to play for his father in Milwaukee.
“The idea of playing for my dad was too good to pass up,” Baldwin Jr. said. to ESPN’s Paul Biancardi.
It’s a nice and unusual story.
Baldwin is the fourth best prospect in the class in 2021 according to 247Sports Composite Rankings and a likely one-and-done lottery pick. Traditionally, players like this do not attend Horizon League schools or even consider participating in these programs. But when your dad is the head coach of a Horizon League program, it obviously changes the dynamics significantly. And it’s not so much what Baldwin plays for his father means as much as what Baldwin chooses to does not to play for his father might have meant.
That’s the real story here.
Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander examine No. 4 overall prospects Pat Baldwin Jr.’s involvement in Milwaukee in the latest edition of the Eye on College Basketball podcast. Listen and subscribe below.
The truth is, Baldwin will probably be fine no matter what. Lots of men who played college basketball in mid-sized leagues have flourished in the NBA in recent years – most notably Steph Curry (Southern Conference), Damian Lillard (Big Sky) and Pascal Siakam (WAC). So there is no reason to believe that the Horizon League will negatively affect Baldwin’s draft status or growth in any meaningful way.
Whatever he wants to be, he wants to be.
But that is not necessarily the case for Patrick Baldwin Sr. He is entering his fifth year at Milwaukee with a record of 47-70. He’s never finished better than tied for fifth in the Horizon League. He has finished seventh or worse in each of the last three seasons. He finished eighth last season. If his son would have committed to Duke, it could very well have been the beginning of the end of his head coaching career.
This development buys him time and gives him hope.
It can even lead to a contract extension.
In other words, Baldwin did not just choose to play between playing for Duke or for his father. He chose between making his father’s job much easier or much harder, possibly between extending his father’s career or shortening it. And though I am told that things were never presented to him with such words, and that he was not under any orders, Baldwin is, by all accounts, a bright young man who understands the consequences of his decision. So this was probably not as difficult to choose as it may seem to some.
And good for the Horizon League.
The last time the conference was really recorded was when Brad Stevens led Butler to back-to-back appearances in the title game at the NCAA Tournament in 2010 and 2011. Not long after it went back, Butler took to Atlantic 10 before he settled in the Big East a year later and – with logos for Kay Felder and Kendrick Nunn – the Horizon League has mostly operated off the national radar ever since.
That will change next season, though.
NBA scouts flock to the Panther Arena to evaluate an undeniable talent, and it’s not crazy to think Milwaukee gets better opponents outside the league and more prominent TV showcases because of Baldwin’s presence on campus. Yes, he misses the chance to compete for a national title, play home games at Cameron Indoor Stadium and learn from the winning Division I coach in history. And absolutely, there is a lot to pass on. Men Patrick Baldwin Jr. now gets to spend his supposed one-year college basketball playing for Patrick Baldwin Sr. And when all that was to be taken into account was taken into account, it is the possibility that was actually too difficult to reject.