Patrick Baldwin Jr. Perseveres to Make USA Men's U19 World Cup Team
While most high school graduates are eagerly looking ahead to college life and escaping the comfortable confines of home, Patrick Baldwin Jr. is headed in another direction.
Baldwin Jr., the No. 4 ranked player in the class of 2021 and one of the highest-rated basketball recruits to ever come out of Wisconsin, was selected as one of six incoming college freshmen to make the 12-man USA U19 World Cup Team.
Standing at 6-foot-9, the heralded power forward decided to keep his talent at home and play for his father, Patrick Baldwin Sr. at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, which is just 18 miles away from his home. Baldwin Sr. will be entering his fifth season as head coach for the Panthers during his son’s freshman year.
“I’m most looking forward to just being able to have him as a coach for the first time. Growing up I’ve always seen him as my father, but being able to be one of his players for the first time in my life, is something that I really look forward to,” said the younger Baldwin.
Turning down offers from Top 10 schools such as, Duke, Georgetown, Kentucky and Virginia, Baldwin Jr. is the highest-ranked recruit to sign with a Horizon League basketball program.
“I think, there wasn't anything particularly (wrong) with Duke,” Baldwin Jr. said of his college decision. “It was more so I think, just playing for my dad was too good of an opportunity to pass up on. And as my high school career progressed, it became clearer and clearer that this is a special opportunity that I can't really miss.”
Before the younger Baldwin heads to Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the fall, he is working hard to recover from a season-ending ankle injury that occurred his final year at Hamilton High School in 2020-21.
“Yeah, I'm feeling pretty confident right now. I've had a couple of setbacks, but nothing too serious, nothing that I'm really worried about,” said Baldwin Jr.
Prior to the USA U19 World Cup Team training camp, Baldwin had not played a five-on-five game for close to a year. He was selected to play on the 2021 USA Basketball Nike Hoop Summit Team, but that event was cancelled due to the pandemic. He also participated in four USA Basketball Men’s Junior National Team minicamps, including October 2018 and April, July and October of 2019.
“I think this is just a good stepping stone and a good milestone to see where I'm at physically and basketball-wise. To come into this team and not miss a beat from where I was before my injury. But I’m really looking forward to getting out there with these guys and just showing what I can do,” Baldwin said.
Scoring 1,595 points for the Chargers, he was on pace to end his high school career with more than 2,000 points before the injury. Despite his setback, he was named a 2021 McDonalds All-American, the first time a player from Wisconsin earned that distinction in six years.
In the 2020 season Baldwin was named the 2020 Gatorade Wisconsin Player of the Year after leading Hamilton to a 22-3 record while averaging 24.3 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. With a long list of accolades under his belt, Baldwin Jr. says wearing USA across his chest is the most important honor he’s ever received.
“I think just putting on this jersey supersedes any honor that I've achieved in my career. So, I think it's being able to come out here and play with some great players and play with great coaches, with one goal in mind, and that is a gold medal. I think it's something that's super special. And I think it's something that really is bigger than anything that I've accomplished individually. So, I'm really looking forward to getting down to competing.”
In the upcoming FIBA Men’s U19 World Cup Team, which features 16 nations from around the world, Baldwin Jr. is eager to show his versatility on the court, including his ability to handle the ball, his court vision and perimeter shooting off the dribble and pass.
When talking about his favorite position to play with the USA U19 team Baldwin Jr. replied, “My favorite position to play is on the court. One thing that the coaches here have really taught us is that there's only two positions in basketball, and that's on the court or on the bench.”
Baldwin Jr. hopes his dedication and love for the game can help lead the squad to another U19 gold medal in Latvia. The USA will open play against Turkey at 10:30 a.m. EDT on July 3, then face 2019 U19 World Cup silver medalist Mali at 1:30 p.m. EDT on July 4 and the USA will wrap up preliminary play versus Australia at 1:30 p.m. EDT on July 6.
“I'm looking forward to competing for a gold medal,” Baldwin Jr. said “But also to just kind of see what talents other countries have. In the NBA, a lot of the Europeans and other overseas guys are making noise in the playoffs. So being able to see those guys that could potentially be those guys to replace players like Nikola Jokić and other great Europeans, I think it's something that is an opportunity that is super special. I get to witness some of the talent that really, I wouldn't see if I had never left America. So, that's something I'm looking forward to other than, obviously, competing for gold.”