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Duke men's basketball target Patrick Baldwin Jr. discusses recruitment, unique summer and more

Patrick Baldwin Jr. is one of Coach K's top targets for the Class of 2021.
Patrick Baldwin Jr. is one of Coach K's top targets for the Class of 2021.

Patrick Baldwin Jr. has himself quite a resume. The No. 2 overall prospect in the Class of 2021 is Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski's earliest-ever offer, with Coach K referring to the 6-foot-9 forward as the "perfect recruit."

The Chronicle spoke with Baldwin over the phone to discuss his recruitment, this unprecedented summer and more.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

The Chronicle: With no official summer seasons or tournaments, this has obviously been an unprecedented summer for a top basketball recruit like yourself. What have you been doing to ensure that this doesn't have a negative impact on your game?

Patrick Baldwin Jr.: Yeah, so over the course of the last three or four months I've made sure to get with my dad as much as possible and get in the gym and continue working on my game and getting stronger physically with a strength program that I'm on right now. Still eating right, still staying with the same sleeping routines, so just kind of keeping things as normal as possible under the unprecedented circumstances. Just continuing to get in the gym and just play basketball. That's really what I have to do right now.

TC: What do you believe are the greatest strengths in your game and what do you most need to improve on?

PB: After this high school season, I think I just got stronger as a ball handler—definitely more of a shot creator instead of just a jump shooter. So I think my shot creation and jump shooting is definitely what stands out in terms of mid range, 3-pointers, getting able to create my own shot. And then kind of being a good team defender, just having a great sense of awareness on the court. Good ball mover on offense. Just kind of a player that always makes the right play offensively and defensively with also the ability to create his own shot. That's kind of how I see myself as my strengths.

And kind of as my weaknesses and something that I need to improve on, I definitely know that I'm not an elite athlete yet. I'm a good athlete, not a great athlete. So I'm still working on that, getting stronger, getting more explosive. Just kind of taking everything into consideration because obviously if you're a better athlete, along with shotmaking, that's an elite combination that's pretty hard to stop at the next level.

TC: Duke offered you a scholarship the summer after your freshman season, the earliest Coach K has ever offered a prospective recruit. Coach K also reportedly called you the "perfect recruit." What does that kind of praise mean to you?

PB: When I actually heard that the first time, that I was the youngest offer, I was kind of shocked at first because I didn't know what to think. All those things are going through my mind when they offer the first time, but just hearing all those things that Coach K has said and hearing that I was the youngest offer is just something that really pushes them forward as a strong candidate to my commitment. I mean l love Coach K, I love the school. Still a lot of great options on the table for me right now. But in terms of what he said, I was the earliest offer, that's definitely something that's strong in my recruitment.

TC: You attended Duke's matchup against Virginia Tech at Cameron Indoor Stadium this past February. How was that experience?

PB: That experience was really great. Cameron Crazies were amazing. Atmosphere was great. They played a great game—Matthew Hurt played well, a lot of different players played well. It was interesting to see some players had an off night and other players stepped up. And being in the locker room with the guys, being around them before pregame and being in the gym during the game—it's just a brotherhood and it's a great atmosphere to be around and a great basketball situation for me. I know my mom enjoyed it a lot. I got to see a lot of family out there too, family friends. So overall, just a great experience, something that I'd love to do again.

TC: In-person recruiting has been halted until at least August 31. Are you still maintaining contact with the teams recruiting you throughout the summer?

PB: So for a lot of the schools in my top-10 I've done a lot of Zoom calls, done a lot of texts back and forth. So just kind of still maintaining that contact so that I'm still able and ready to make a decision on the timetable that I have for myself.

TC: You mentioned your top-10. Your most recent recruiting-related tweet back in early May listed those top 10 schools. Has that list trimmed down since then? Have any schools emerged as front runners?

PB: Yeah, I'm not going to say any school has emerged as front runners, but none of the schools in my top-10 have been trimmed down yet. I still consider all of them heavily. And obviously, if they're in the top-10, there's definitely a good relationship, me and my family like them as a program. So, no schools have been trimmed down and no schools really emerged as a front runner yet.

TC: You didn't list the G League as part of that top-10. Are you considering that option at all, or is your mindset on going to school for at least one season?

PB: So you obviously have to take that in consideration because it's definitely a change in terms of the college landscape. But as of right now, I think I'm 99 percent sure that I'm going to take the college route, just from my dad being a college coach and my parents wanting me to get a college education. So you can't put a price tag on college education and the college experience. But obviously, you've got to see how this pans out, and you've  got to make the right decision for yourself basketball-wise as well as school-wise and people-wise that you're going to be around. So in terms of the G League, I'm just going to see how it plays out. But as of right now, I definitely think I'm going to take the college route.

TC: What do you want out of your college experience?

PB: So out of my college experience, I just want to be around guys that love winning, coaches that have the best interest in their players, coaches that will push me and just being around pro mindsets every day. Because if my end goal is to get to the NBA and that's what I want to do with my life, you have to put yourself around the best people for you that are not always going to tell you what you want to hear. They're going to be in your ear telling you what you have to do better, what you need to work on, but also be there and pat you on the back when you deserve it. So just looking for a coaching staff and a team and a college atmosphere that kind of supports my thinking mind and just something I think I'd really enjoy.

TC: Explain your relationship to [incoming Duke forward] Jalen Johnson.

PB: When I moved to Wisconsin, going into my freshman year, we started playing for Phenom U. I played up with him, when I was 15 it was 16U. So he's always been a grade older than me and I played with him for the last two years. I really enjoyed playing with him, just in terms of what he could do with the ball in his hands, so he's a good player. And just kind of off the court we've been pretty good together.

TC: Has he been in your ear about Duke at all? And how much of an impact will his experience have on your decision?

PB: Yeah, I mean, his experience is going to have a huge impact on my decision, just kind of hearing what he has to say about actually being in the program. So I know he's said great things before he's gotten there, and just seeing what he'll say when he's in the program, how he's liking school, how he's liking campus, how he's liking the people that are there, how he likes his teammates and all that type of stuff. So just him being in my ear and having a first-hand experience from him will be very key to me. Because obviously, I take his opinions very seriously.

TC: Is there a current timeline for when you might trim down your recruiting list further? Is there a timeline for a decision?

PB: Before the pandemic there was definitely the timeline of committing before my senior year in high school, my senior season at least. But I think the pandemic's kind of pushing my timeline back a little bit. Definitely think I released my top-10 a little bit later than I would have liked. But overall, I think it might push it back a little bit. But when I think I have the school in mind, I'll have no problem pulling the trigger and just committing to the school. Because if, at the end of the day, I feel like that's a great fit for me, and I feel like they've done a great job recruiting, and I feel like that's a good spot for me, and my family agrees and it's a great education for me, I'll have no problem pulling the trigger and committing.

TC: What one current, or former, NBA player do you look up to as you have a similar kind of game, that's who you want to become?

PB: Yeah, so at first first when I was younger, I was definitely mesmerized by the way Kevin Durant played. Just kind of a 6-foot-9, 6-foot-10 combo forward, can do it all, score from anywhere. So early in my life, I definitely took a lot of his skill set and kind of implemented into my game being a 6-foot-9, really good shooter, create off the bounce a little bit. But at the time, I didn't know I was going to be 6-foot-9. So now when I'm 6-foot-9 it's kind of crazy to see how I still take a lot of his moves and a lot of his tendencies and put it into my game. 

Then Kobe—I loved this footwork from 2010 on. Just kind of his body deteriorating, so he still needed to find ways to score because that's what his job was. So definitely, his jab series, his mid range, just being more efficient as a scorer without having to waste three, four or five dribbles to get one bucket. 

Then right now I'm actually jumping on the Jayson Tatum bandwagon. I definitely loved him when he was in high school, watching him as a senior in high school in St. Louis, and then watching him at Duke. I mean, his skill set is so diverse. If you watch him in the Boston Celtics offense, just something that you love to see, in terms of a 6-foot-8, 6-foot-9 forward that can handle it like a guard or a wing, create in the pick and roll and really just space the floor for a team that is really ran by a great coach.

TC: Have you been in talks with any other 2021 recruits about potentially playing with them or is your decision going to be fully individual? 

PB: I think at the end of the day, my decision is going to be based on what I feel is my decision for what I want to do for college. I know earlier, I was definitely talking with Max Christie. But I think about two weeks ago he kind of said, 'Yeah, I think I kind of like Michigan State a lot.' So [he] just went ahead and committed and I was all for it. And I was happy for him. But I just remember we were thinking about a few spots we would land together. But I'm really happy with where he's gone. Other than that, I don't think there's too many other players that I've really talked to in terms of who I'd want to partner with or go to the same school with, so I think my decision is going to be completely up to myself and where I feel like I fit best.

TC: What are your basketball goals in college and beyond?

PB: I think college you've definitely got to shoot for the stars with that one. I think you've got to definitely, at least at some point, shoot for a national championship because that's a great experience that a ton of great players have never experienced. But I think in college, I just want to come in, work every day. And really, if you just put in the work and continue to trust your coaches and your teammates, good things will happen with you in the long run. Basketball is a beautiful sport. 

But I think beyond I just really want to have the chance to play for a really good NBA team that trusts me and I trust them, and I'll continue to put in the work and get better. I don't know, I just kind of want to have a long career with basketball, and even beyond playing basketball: coaching, sideline reporting and all that type of stuff. So just kind of having a long career with basketball, whether that's playing or writing or talking or coaching.

TC: So your situation is unique in that your dad is a part of your recruitment. He's [the head coach at] one of the schools in your top-10. So what's that been like, have you talked to him a lot about what's going on and just what's sort of the dynamic there?

PB: Yeah, so the dynamic is great with him. So we'll actually occasionally do kind of Zoom calls where I'll be in another room and he'll be upstairs with the entire coaching staff. Just to kind of make it feel like as much as I'm his son, he's still going to recruit me the same way that he would recruit any other player, which I've loved so far. He's gotten to show me a lot of things that, even though I'm there, majority of the time, I never saw in his program. He gets to show me the workouts and the scheduling that the players do and all the practice schedules, practice routines and brought in a couple players to talk with me. It was just really fun to be on there with my father and his coaching staff. And at some points, they got pretty emotional. 

But just having him in my ear, and just knowing that he'll support me 100 percent, whether I decide to go to Milwaukee or decide to go elsewhere, is something that I really admire about him, something that's pretty cool.


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