Penn State basketball just got better, folks. A whole lot better.
Former VCU standout and Atlantic-10 Player of the Year, Adrian “Ace” Baldwin Jr., confirmed what many people had speculated for a few days now — that he will be playing basketball for the Penn State Nittany Lions in 2023-2024.
When Baldwin first entered the portal, there was a valid level of concern as to whether he’d follow Mike Rhoades to Happy Valley. According to just about anyone who does transfer portal rankings, Baldwin was a consensus top ten player in the portal. With that being the case, there was going to be some serious interest from big time basketball programs. In the end though, the relationship with Rhoades and the rest of the new Penn State staff was enough to lure Baldwin to State College.
It should not be understated just how big of a coup this is for Rhoades and Penn State on a number of levels. First and foremost, it’s a great sign that there is some progress and hope with NIL and Penn State basketball. When Micah Shrewsberry left, it was reported that the NIL happenings — or lack thereof — were a big reason for his departure. While Penn State obviously had a leg up with Baldwin given his connection with the staff, I doubt Baldwin is coming here as a charity case. So a much needed happening after the NIL drama that has engulfed Penn State basketball the last month or so.
Beyond the NIL stuff, Baldwin is a pivotal piece for what Rhoades wants to build at Penn State. He’s a true point guard that is a masterful distributor, sporting a 2.15 assist to turnover ratio last season. He can score in a variety of ways, whether it’s drawing fouls around the basket or pulling up from beyond the arc or in the mid-range. Defensively, he leads the attack for Rhoades’ full-court HAVOC style of defense, as evidenced by three consecutive seasons of 2+ steals per game and being named the Atlantic-10 Defensive Player of the Year this past year.
With Baldwin now in the fold, Penn State’s attention turns to the other VCU players in the portal. We highlighted them a few days ago, but former Ram starters like Jalen DeLoach, Jamir Watkins, and Nick Kern will certainly be priority targets for Rhoades now that he is in Happy Valley. From all accounts, Baldwin should help in that regard. He was not only VCU’s best player, but also the leader of the team. His decision to join Rhoades at Penn State could sway another Ram or two who might be on the fence.