Advertisement

NBA draft prospect Patrick Baldwin Jr. offers 'no excuses' in path to basketball redemption

(AP Photo/Alan Youngblood)

After a difficult freshman season, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee wing Patrick Baldwin Jr. is one of the more fascinating prospects in the 2022 NBA draft.

Baldwin was a five-star and top-10 overall recruit, and he was once even considered the top overall recruit in the class. One glimpse at the Cerebro Sports database makes it pretty clear why.

The 6-foot-10 wing was a breakout star while playing AAU basketball. He averaged 26.1 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.7 steals, 1.2 steals, and 1.0 blocks per 40 minutes while playing for Phenom University on the NIKE EYBL circuit in 2019.

Baldwin also represented Team USA during the U19 World Cup in 2021. He averaged 17.9 points, 11.6 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.0 steal, and 1.3 blocks per 40 en route to a gold medal.

He had several notable high-major opportunities, and he was even the youngest player ever to receive a scholarship offer from Coach K at Duke.

However, Baldwin turned down those offers to play for his father, Patrick Baldwin Sr., on the Milwaukee Panthers in the Horizon League. In the process, Baldwin also became the highest-rated recruit in conference history.

Unfortunately, it was a rough freshman campaign for Baldwin. Due to ankle issues and COVID, he had limited action, appearing in just 11 games while at the university. Baldwin played his final game for the Panthers on Feb. 9, and his father was fired as head coach on March 2.

Even though he had a rough season, there is still plenty of reason to believe in his long-term trajectory. Baldwin is a lengthy wing who can shoot, which is an archetype coveted around the league.

For The Win spoke with Baldwin to learn more about his reflections on the previous year, how he can contribute well even with less of an offensive load in the NBA, and plenty more.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

What are your key points of emphasis for this offseason?

Patrick Baldwin Jr: A big part of my offseason is obviously on the physical side. Coming off a series of ankle injuries that have hindered me these last few years, that’s a big point of emphasis this summer: Getting mobility back and confidence pushing off that foot again. Obviously, I had a down shooting year. But that doesn’t sway my confidence too much. I’m still shooting the ball at a high level with a high level of confidence. I’m just getting back to the basics and shooting the ball well, expanding my game offensively, and then just becoming a better athlete.

What role did injuries plan in your freshman campaign and how is your health now?

PBJ: Every time I step on the court, first and foremost, I have no excuses. Even though an injury is a part of basketball and it’s a part of what I went through, if I step on the court, I have to play at an elite level. That’s something that me and my dad have talked about. Even though you do have this going on, other players are playing through injuries. You have to have a tougher mindset than them and push through it. With the load I had to carry at Milwaukee early on as a freshman, I think it exposed me to a lot of good things that I can learn from. They threw the kitchen sink at me at Milwaukee. I was front and center of the scouting report, circled in red.

It was a learning curve for sure. But for the short time I played, I think it was a good experience and now, this is the best that my body has felt in awhile. When I come out here and show myself in front of teams, my conditioning is a lot better. I’ve been able to play pretty much uninterrupted basketball for the past two months. I’m in a very good spot. I am better than where I was this season, and that’s big. When I’m on a court, I don’t have to worry about what’s going on in my left ankle or my feet, I feel really grounded. I feel agile. I feel mobile. That is going to be a big step in my progression this year.

Overall, how do you reflect on your experience playing for your father at Milwaukee?

© Scott Ash / Now News Group via Imagn Content Services, LLC

PBJ: I think it was an awesome experience. I could really walk into his office whenever. There was no learning or feeling each other out. If I had gone to another university, I would’ve had that feeling out process. From day one, I could hit the ground running and I was really able to build a deeper relationship with my father. I think we understand each other very well. It was a difficult year. It would be selfish to say I was the only one who went through a difficult year. It was also a difficult year for my teammates and my coaching staff. But going through that struggle with my father was pretty special and is something we will have stories to talk about and we can both learn from.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced and how did you adapt?

PBJ: I think our biggest challenge is that we did not know each other too well. I was late to summer workouts because I was in Latvia with Team USA. We had seven transfers come in, so it was a relatively new team. We got the injury bug pretty early, so we threw a lot of different starting lineups out there. If I had to summarize the season and my season in one word, it’s just rhythm. Basketball is a game about rhythm and it’s a game about runs. If we’re stopping and starting and we’ve got other guys who are injured and dealing with other stuff, it’s just tough to build a rhythm. But no excuses. When we step on that hardwood, we’ve always got to come out victorious.

How might your game elevate when you have less of an offensive load in the NBA?

© Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun / USA TODAY NETWORK

PBJ: I know what I can bring to an NBA team. But I don’t know what teams are looking for in terms of my role yet. It’s important for me to get my feet wet and figure out where I fit in with a team, where I gel, where I can stand out, where I can impact winning. Once that is figured out, I can grow and expand from there. It’s about getting my feet wet, being a sponge, and learning as much as possible from the NBA environment, competing day in and day out, and then figuring out where I can grow my game from there.

In terms of my style, though, I’m big, and I’m also switchable. I can shoot the ball at a high clip. Those are all things that are very intriguing to a lot of NBA teams. I just want to win. I’ve never had a season like this before. I’ve never played for a team that went through a lot of the things that we went through, so I’m just trying to turn that page and get back on the right track.

What are some of the things you’re looking for when you watch game film?

PBJ: One of the ways I am looking for is more ways to fill up the stat sheet. I’m not a guy who really checks the stats right after the game. But if you’re able to impact multiple facets of the game and you’re making the right decisions, like your playmaking is leading to scores and you are hitting the glass hard with your rebounding and you’re shooting at a high clip and you’re getting efficient looks within the offense, that elevates the level of a team. One thing that a coach always told me to ask myself: Does a team win because of you or are you on a winning team? Those are two big differences. Every time I step on the court, I want to impact and be the reason we win.

Some of the guys that I love to watch are guys that are multi-positional at the three and four, guys that shoot at a high clip. I love watching the KD’s and the Tatum’s but those are superstar guys. I love watching Khris Middleton, Cam Johnson, Mikal Bridges, offensively. Those are big wings that can play three and four — even at two in some lineups — just really do a lot of things offensively. I love Michael Porter as well.

What are some of the ways that you can contribute on the defensive end of the floor?

PBJ: Right off the bat, it’s length. I’m 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-1 or 7-foot-2 wingspan. Any time you can put that on the floor, you’ve got a fighting chance to get a stop, defensively. Another underrated part of how my mind works is one of the things I was trying to work on this year is being a leader and using my voice. Defensively, I know a lot of the actions that are going on. But I’m not always relaying that message to my teammates. If I can bring my voice to a team, and earn my voice, I can talk through those actions. You may make mistakes still but you’re talking through it. If I can bring some of my knowledge to the defensive end and be a good rotational defender and a smart defender, I think that can elevate the level of a team.

Where do you think you will perform best while at the NBA draft combine?

PBJ: I think teams know I’m going to do well in the interviews. I come from a basketball family. I’ve been around basketball my whole life, I know how to talk about basketball. I think that the interview process is going to be a strong suit on my part. But I think I have a lot to show in the workouts. I’m not going to workouts with the intent of proving any doubters wrong. But I think the workouts are an area I’ll do well in because it’s basketball. It’s a simple game. But people make it hard. That’s where I think I will transcend and turn some heads.

How did you develop your love for the game and how will you show it to NBA teams?

© Scott Ash / Now News Group via Imagn Content Services, LLC

PBJ: In a way, I was thrust into basketball at a very early age. Shortly after I was born, the first thing that was put in front of me was four different balls for different sports. The only ball I picked up was a basketball. Since then, my love for basketball has grown and as I’ve become a better player and learned more about the game and been around better basketball.

Every level I’ve gone up, I’ve had a new appreciation for the work that has to go in to get to that level. When I was coming into high school, I developed that work ethic to come in at 6 am and have practice at night. When I got to college, it ramped up a bit. There was more work to be done and I’m sure that’s what will happen when I enter the NBA.

There is going to be more work to be done. But throughout the ups and downs of my playing days, my love for that rock has never changed. I am just hoping to show teams I’m super passionate about this game. I’m not really going out there to prove anything. I just want to prove to myself that I can do it. If I’m just walking in there with supreme confidence and my joy and my love for the game is present, teams will be able to turn an eye pretty quick to what I’m doing. I know that I can do a lot of things on the court. I’m very versatile. It’s about going to those teams and playing the best basketball and having fun.

What are your favorite memories of playing basketball so far?

fiba.basketball

PBJ: I think the pinnacle of what I’ve done basketball-wise is the U19 championship. Coming together with that level of talent and doing what we did on that court is special. Considering we had just been with each other for three weeks before we went to Latvia, we came together so beautifully. I loved the coaching staff down there. I loved all the players that I played with. It was really something that I worked for my whole life. I had done the USA trials and fall camps and I had never had the opportunity to compete for my country.

When they gave me that call early, I cut my rehab short. I knew I couldn’t miss it. I was still coming off the ankle injury but that was just an opportunity I could not turn down. Just knowing the work that I had to do to get back from my injury just to be able to play in that event, and then to be in the training camp with all that talent and make the roster.

To end it with a gold medal is something I cherish very greatly. It was just collective joy. It’s something we all worked for. When we stepped foot in that training camp, we knew what we were representing and that it was about the name on the front, not on the back. When you look at pictures of us from that championship, you see us celebrating with each other. Nobody was off on their own agenda. Nobody was on the scorer’s table. We were with each other. That was team basketball. When you play team basketball and you play hard on defense and on offense, stuff like that happens. As a collective group, we knew we earned it.

What do you like to do when you’re not playing basketball?

(AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

PBJ: [Laughs] Um, genuinely, it’s just basketball. I wake up. I watch film. I turn on ESPN. I watch more basketball. I go work out. I come back. I watch basketball. So I guess in that way, basketball can stress me out. But in a very good way, I love it. I’ll go for bike rides to stay active. I just love going outside and staying active outside of basketball. But from the time that I’m up, I wake up thinking about basketball and I go to sleep thinking about basketball. I think that it’s a healthy obsession.

Are there any goals you’d like to accomplish over the next few years?

PBJ: I have a shortlist of individual goals that I do want to reach that I’m going to just keep to myself because I think it’s better if I’m internally pushing for it without spreading the word. But I have PBJ Promises. They’re things that I’ve promised myself I’m going to do every single day until I retire. The promises are to never be outworked, compete every day, be on an NBA Finals teams, ask questions, praise the highest, make my family proud, love what I do and show it, and love life. Those are my promises to myself and as long as I do those things, I think I’m on the right path.

Tell me about the nickname, PBJ. I know it’s your initials. Thoughts on the sandwich?

PBJ: The nickname actually comes from Doug Collins. My dad was on staff with Chris Collins, Doug’s son. One day, I was in fifth grade, and I walked in the office. Doug just phrased the nickname PBJ. From there, it stuck. I’ve had that nickname since fifth grade. That’s what people call me and what people know me by now. Actually, ironically, I’ve never had a PBJ. I’m not a fan of peanut butter too much.

More NBA