In theory, June is supposed to be a quiet time in the college basketball calendar. The season is long gone, and June is smack dab in the middle of the April and July recruiting periods – yet on most college campuses this is one of the busiest times of year. Camps are going on, freshmen and new players are arriving, and recruiting? Well, it never really stops.
That’s certainly the case at Kentucky, where this week John Calipari and his staff hosted one of the top rising players in America. Meet Adrian “Ace” Baldwin, a point guard in the 2020 class who just finished his sophomore season at Saint Frances Academy in Baltimore, Maryland. He is ranked No. 83 nationally in the latest 247 Sports Rankings, but is receiving interest from some of the biggest brands in college basketball, including Kentucky, Louisville, Kansas, Virginia and Pitt.
Baldwin took an unofficial visit to Lexington on Tuesday. And in an exclusive interview with KSR, admitted that he came away impressed.
“It was a great experience,” Baldwin said. “It was my first time up there. I met some of the players, the coaches. It was a lot of fun.”
As Baldwin alluded to, the trip basically served as an introduction to Kentucky basketball. He had a chance to tour the facilities, watch the current team play and also meet with the coaching staff. In addition to John Calipari, he also spoke with assistants Kenny Payne and Joel Justus. While Kentucky hasn’t officially offered Baldwin (the staff rarely throws out scholarships to players that young), the 6’1 point guard was impressed with Calipari’s honest approach. Calipari admitted that he loved the lefty’s flair and the energy he plays with. But in a message that Calipari has delivered to quite a few recruits over the last few months, he also told him to continue to work on his shooting, which has become a point of emphasis in Kentucky’s recruiting of late.
Most importantly, Calipari let him know that this is just the beginning of the recruiting process. Not the end.
“He was just telling him you’re quick, you’re tough, you have a chip on your shoulder,” said Jide Sodipo, the Director of Team BBC, Baldwin’s AAU club. “[He said] ‘I like how you play, but now I want you in the next two years to keep improving. Every time I see you I want you to get better.’”
“You know Cal,” Sodipo continued. “He doesn’t sugarcoat anything.”
Class of 2020 6’1/PG Adrian “Ace” Baldwin @yeah_ace3 during his unofficial visit today at University of Kentucky w/ Head Coach John Calipari @UKCoachCalipari & @JideSodipo
Challenging Student Athletes-Maximizing Potentials#TheTeamBBC #EmbraceTheGrind #EmbraceTheStage #Lafamilia pic.twitter.com/jU85w89cRx
— Team BBC Grassroots ? Program (@TheTeamBBC) June 13, 2018
The visit was just the first of many for Baldwin this summer. The trip to Kentucky was part of a dual recruiting visit, as Baldwin also met with new Louisville head coach Chris Mack on Wednesday morning (like Kentucky, Louisville has yet to officially offer Baldwin). Later this month he will also take visits Virginia and Pitt and in September he will head to Kansas as well. Like so many others, this “downtime” on the calendar has turned into a productive couple of weeks for player who just recently completed the halfway point of his high school career.
It’s worth noting that the visit also served as a bit of a reunion of sorts for a player that Baldwin called a “mentor,” current Kentucky freshman Immanuel Quickley. Quickley is also from Baltimore and also played for Team BBC. The two are good friends and Baldwin said that he was happy to see Quickley while on his visit, even if it was only briefly. The two only spoke for a few minutes, as Quickley was busy shuttling between classes and workouts.
If anything though, Sodipo believes that a good thing and that it taught Baldwin a valuable lesson: The opportunity to play at a school like Kentucky doesn’t happen by accident. And it doesn’t come without hard work.
“That’s a wake-up for someone young like Ace,” Sodipo said. “It’s important to see that this is serious business. That’s a guy that who I played against the last two or three years, a McDonald’s All-American, and I walk into the gym and that guy is working out at 6 o’clock in the morning, at night.”
“You can tell them [as players] this or that, but when they see it, they’re like ‘Oh, shoot.’ They go back with a different mindset. We went through it with Immanuel, a couple other kids. They come back with a different mindset of ‘What I was doing was good, but if I want to be great, I’ve got to do more.’”
It’s a little early to tell if Ace Baldwin is the next Immanuel Quickley, and whether or not he’ll ultimately play at Kentucky.
But as Sodipo points out, the ball is now in his court.