Patrick Baldwin Jr. could've decided to play at Duke, joined what would've been the top-ranked recruiting class in the nation and tried to help Mike Krzyzewski win his sixth national championship.
It would've made sense. Nobody would've blinked.
But, all things considered -- and, rest assured, there were lots of things to consider -- it was unsurprising Wednesday morning when the five-star prospect announced he was passing on the opportunity to be the next great Blue Devil, instead staying at home to play for his father at Milwaukee.
"The thought of playing for my dad was too good to pass up," Baldwin Jr. told ESPN's Paul Biancardi.
It's a neat and unusual story.
Baldwin is the fourth-best prospect in the Class of 2021, according to the 247Sports Composite Rankings, and a likely one-and-done lottery pick. Traditionally, players like this don't attend Horizon League schools or even consider joining those programs. But when your father is the head coach of a Horizon League program, that obviously changes the dynamics considerably. And it's not so much what Baldwin playing for his dad means as much as what Baldwin choosing to not play for his dad might've meant.
That's the real story here.
Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander examine No. 4 overall prospect Pat Baldwin Jr.'s commitment to Milwaukee on the latest edition of the Eye on College Basketball podcast. Listen and subscribe below.
Truth is, Baldwin will likely be fine no matter what. Lots of men who played college basketball in mid-major leagues have flourished in the NBA in recent years -- most notably Steph Curry (Southern Conference), Damian Lillard (Big Sky) and Pascal Siakam (WAC). So there's no reason to believe the Horizon League will negatively impact Baldwin's draft status or growth in any meaningful way.
Whatever he will be, he will be.
But such is not necessarily the case for Patrick Baldwin Sr. He's entering his fifth year at Milwaukee with a record of 47-70. He's never finished better than tied for fifth in the Horizon League. He's finished seventh-or-worse in each of the past three seasons. He finished eighth this past season. If his son would've committed to Duke, it could've very well been the beginning of the end of his head-coaching career.
This development buys him time and gives him hope.
It could even lead to a contract extension.
In other words, Baldwin wasn't just choosing between playing for Duke or for his dad. He was choosing between making his father's job much easier or much harder, possibly between extending his father's career or shortening it. And though I'm told things were never presented to him in such terms and that he was under no orders, Baldwin is, by all accounts, a bright young man capable of understanding the repercussions of his decision. So this likely wasn't as difficult of a choice as it might seem to some.
And good for the Horizon League.
The last time that conference really registered was when Brad Stevens led Butler to back-to-back appearances in the title game of the NCAA Tournament in 2010 and 2011. Not long after that happened, Butler left for the Atlantic 10 before settling in the Big East a year later, and -- with apologies to Kay Felder and Kendrick Nunn -- the Horizon League has operated mostly off of the national radar ever since.
That changes next season, though.
NBA scouts will flock to Panther Arena to evaluate an undeniable talent, and it's not crazy to think Milwaukee will get better non-league opponents and more prominent television showcases because of Baldwin's presence on campus. Yes, he'll miss out on the chance to compete for a national title, to play home games inside Cameron Indoor Stadium and learn from the winningest Division I coach in history. And, absolutely, that's a lot to pass on. But Patrick Baldwin Jr. will now get to spend his presumed one year of college basketball playing for Patrick Baldwin Sr. And when everything that should be taken into account was taken into account, that's the opportunity that was actually too difficult to turn down.