Head Coach Mike Rhoades is starting off his Penn State tenure with a bang, landing one of the biggest names in the transfer portal with former VCU standpoint and A10 player of the year Adrian “Ace” Baldwin Jr. The ultra-talented 6’1 senior point guard, with 2 years of eligibility remaining. Ace Baldwin was also named A10 defensive player of the year and spent the last three years playing for Rhoades at VCU.
Ace was a 3-star point guard recruit in the class of 2020 out of St. Francis Academy in Maryland. He was an immediate starter for the Rams, starting in all 80 of his career games. He has upped his scoring average every year from 6.7 as a freshman to 12.7 last year.
He is a decent 3pt shooter with a 35% career mark from deep, but he really likes to do his damage in the mid-range. He routinely takes one step inside the three-point line to fire off long twos that will make analytic fans cringe, but in the end, the best kind of bucket is one that goes in the net, and last year it went in the net a lot, upping his 2pt% from 41% in 21-22 to 47% in 22-23.
He also is an improved playmaker, averaging about 6 assists a game for the Rams last year. He likes to operate in the pick-n-roll to get into his midrange, find the roller inside, or spray it out to shooters off of help.
While Ace Baldwin is a very good offensive player, where he really stars is on the defensive end. As the leader of VCU’s defense, he often played at the top of Rhoades’ aggressive zone and pressure system which gave team headaches. Despite being a bit undersized at 6’1 he uses his body very effectively to slide with offensive players and make them uncomfortable. He has great hands and defensive instincts which allow him to aggressively play the passing lanes and pick the pocket of his opponents which is shown in his over 2 steals per game average for his career including 2.2 per game last year which was good for second in the A10.
Ace Baldwin’s commitment is a very important first step for coach Rhoades as he begins to rebuild a roster that is down to just 2 current scholarship players. He is a fantastic player that was coveted by teams all across the country and getting him to Penn State shows a belief that this won’t be a long rebuild for the program.
He only has 2 years left and could go play a big role in a lot safer situations than the current one at Penn State. His belief in his former and now future staff speaks volumes to the message they are pitching and how they want to compete right away.
He also represents something that many hope becomes a trend and that is former VCU players joining Rhoades in Happy Valley. VCU had a good, relatively young team with lots of players that can absolutely play and thrive in the Big Ten. Many VCU players are already in the portal and have an interest in Penn State like All-A10 Conference team member Jalen DeLoach, who announced he is deciding soon between his top 6 teams Penn State, Florida State, Miami, Indiana, and VCU.
Having Rhoades and almost the entire VCU coaching staff at Penn State was already a great advantage in recruiting former VCU players to the Nittany Lions, but now with the leader of the team in Happy Valley now too, that advantage got even greater.
Penn State is getting a great scorer, passer, and defender in Ace Baldwin who will look to be one of the leaders of Mike Rhoades’ first team in Happy Valley. His commitment is also a great sign of how this staff wants to attack the portal and how next year’s team could turn out.