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Mike Rhoades Makes Case For Penn State Hoops’ Ace Baldwin Jr. To Earn Conference Honors

As the men’s college basketball season approaches its postseason, the time is nearing for conferences to honor their best players. For Penn State men’s basketball head coach Mike Rhoades, senior guard Ace Baldwin Jr. is more than deserving of the highest award offered by the Big Ten.

Even if he won’t win Big Ten Player of the Year, Baldwin has certainly been the Nittany Lions’ best player. With the departure of Kanye Clary from the team, Baldwin leads Penn State in points, assists, steals, and minutes while being one of the team’s best three-point shooters.

Baldwin’s effectiveness on the court for Penn State is hard to dispute, but Rhoades said he fears Baldwin’s talents will be overlooked by those who vote for Big Ten player awards.

“There are people that look at just the stat sheet and the conference stats and stat leaders and vote that way because they don’t know the game,” Rhoades said Monday. “I’ll learn this first year if people are really watching the game and know basketball. But the dude’s a winner. He’s been a winner everywhere he’s at. He impacts the game in so many different ways.”

Rhoades has coached Baldwin for the guard’s entire college career. The two first worked together at VCU, and when Rhoades moved to Central Pennsylvania to take the Penn State head coaching job a year ago, Baldwin followed.

Should Baldwin win Big Ten Player of the Year, it won’t be his first award of the like. Last year, he was named Atlantic 10 Player of the Year after averaging 12.7 points, 5.8 assists, and 2.9 rebounds per game.

However, if Baldwin wants a shot at the top honor in the Big Ten, he’ll have to beat out tough competition, including Purdue’s Zach Edey, who was named the conference’s best player last year.

It’s more likely that Baldwin will have a shot for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. While he’s done well on offense, Baldwin’s best talents lie on the other side of the ball. He leads the Big Ten in steals per game with 2.9 per game, a good bit ahead of the next player behind him, Chucky Hepburn of Wisconsin, who has 2.1 steals per game.

“I wish I could say it was good coaching, but it’s not. [He] just sees things as they may be occurring before they’re occurring. He recovers ground so quickly,” Rhoades said of Baldwin’s defensive abilities. “I think the way he covers ground, because of his instincts, allows him to do multiple things in one little possession that get him steals. It really helps his teammates and helps the team’s defense.”

A self-proclaimed basketball junkie, Rhoades backed up his claim that Baldwin’s the best player in his conference. Even if he doesn’t know who votes for the award, Rhoades just hopes they’ve watched his star on TV.

“I know basketball. I watch all the games. I watched a bunch of them yesterday,” Rhoades said. “I hope that people do the voting watched a bunch of them yesterday as well.”

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About the Author

Joe Lister

Joe is a junior journalism major at Penn State and an associate editor at Onward State. He covers Penn State football and enjoys yelling on Twitter about Philadelphia/Penn State sports. He also listens to Mac Miller more than you. If you want to find him, Joe's usually watching soccer with his shirt off or at the gym with his shirt on. Please send all positive affirmations and/or hate mail toward him on Twitter (iamjoelister) or via email ([email protected]).

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