Getting To Know Penn State Hoops Transfer Ace Baldwin Jr.
The Mike Rhoades era of Penn State men’s basketball officially began Sunday afternoon with the commitment of the newly-hired head coach’s first portal prospect.
Ace Baldwin Jr., the 2023 Atlantic 10 Player of the Year and star VCU point guard, followed Rhoades to Happy Valley after a masterful 2022-23 season including a conference championship and NCAA Tournament appearance.
Through three seasons in Richmond with the Rams, the 6’1″ point guard averaged 10.4 points, 5.2 assists, and 3.2 rebounds per game, while remaining a sturdy contributor on both ends of the court. Not only was he the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year but Baldwin also was dubbed the Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Year and became just the fourth player to earn both honors in the same year.
Baldwin boasted three stars as a high school recruit out of Baltimore, Maryland, in the Class of 2020. The point guard received offers from Rutgers, Providence, TCU, Georgetown, and Maryland, among others, but Baldwin chose Rhoades’ program on April 13, 2019, and stuck with the Rams for the next three years.
Rhoades wasted no time getting the rookie involved in his freshman season and started Baldwin in all 26 of VCU’s 2020-21 outings. Baldwin averaged just under 30 minutes per game and automatically became a linchpin in the Rams’ rotation.
Baldwin knocked down a single-game career-high 15 points against Saint Louis in February 2021 but maintained a consistent 6.7 points-per-game clip lasting through the remainder of the season. He was named to the Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team and led VCU in steals per game, while also ranking second in the conference in steals per game.
In his sophomore campaign, Baldwin nearly doubled his averages from his freshman season despite an Achilles tendon injury that prevented him from seeing the floor in the opening games of VCU’s 2021-22 schedule. Following surgery on his Achilles over the summer, Baldwin jumped back into regular-season play in early December and quickly found himself right back in the starting lineup for the next 24-straight games.
Baldwin’s versatility paid dividends on both sides of the court since the sophomore emerged as a dangerous sharpshooter and playmaker while leading the charge on the Rams’ defensive end, too. The second-year posted 11.4 points, 5.5 assists, and 3.5 rebounds per game in his shortened season and made the most of every minute on the hardwood.
After his second season, Baldwin was named to the All-Atlantic 10 second team and ranked third in steals per game nationally. He also led VCU in three-point conversions throughout the season, which testified to Baldwin’s capacity for efficiency.
In the second game of VCU’s most recent campaign, Baldwin suffered a broken wrist and missed the following four games. The junior underwent surgery and bounced back 12 days later to ultimately lead the Rams to an Atlantic 10 title and NCAA Tournament appearance. Before that, though, Baldwin posted insane numbers, including a 37-point outing against Saint Louis in February and five three-point conversions against La Salle in December.
Overall, Baldwin’s stats remained relatively similar to his sophomore year as he registered 12.7 points, 5.8 assists, and 2.9 rebounds per game throughout his comparably shortened season.
After Rhoades’ hiring at Penn State on March 29, Baldwin announced his entrance into the transfer portal a day later on March 30.
“I want to thank VCU RamNation for three incredible years of memories. We did some amazing things that will forever stand in history,” Baldwin wrote on Twitter. “…I want to thank Coach Rhoades and the coaching staff for trusting in me to lead VCU’s basketball program for the time that I was here… I have decided to enter my name into the transfer portal to explore new opportunities.”
Baldwin remained in the portal for a week and a half, however, most folks anticipated his dedication to Rhoades and subsequent commitment to Penn State. Around 6 p.m. on Sunday, April 9, Baldwin made his choice to commit to the Nittany Lions official.
The VCU flip will serve as the first building block of Rhoades’ program as the newly-hired leader works to engineer depth and acquire transfer portal talent in the coming weeks. Six of Baldwin’s teammates from VCU entered the transfer portal after the news of Rhoades’ departure from Richmond, so perhaps a few more Rams may follow Baldwin’s lead to Happy Valley.
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