Posted: 11:29 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013
By Christian D'Andrea
Kevin Stallings spent most of his summer dealing with the loss of an entire recruiting class. Now, he's working on rebuilding this team for 2014.
That started last Sunday when he got a verbal commitment from four-star combo guard Wade Baldwin to play at Vanderbilt next fall. Baldwin, a 6'3", 180 pound scorer, can play at the point or at shooting guard. He'll be a valuable addition to a Commodore team that will need an infusion of young talent after Rod Odom and Kyle Fuller graduate next spring.
Baldwin has earned high marks for his physical play and his ability to drive to the basket - something that Vanderbilt has lacked since Jeffery Taylor graduated. Sheldon Jeter and Kedren Johnson each showed off a penchant for getting to the rim in flashes last season, but neither player will be with the 'Dores next year. Unlike Jeter, however, Johnson is due to return in 2014 after sitting out this season due to suspension. Baldwin could end up playing his first two years alongside the talented point guard in the Vandy backcourt, giving Kevin Stallings a pair of slash-and-kick players behind the arc.
Unlike Stallings's guard targets in the past, Baldwin doesn't have the reputation of a great shooter. While he can hit shots from long range, he struggles to connect on catch-and-shoot opportunities and usually needs time and space to heat up from three. That's a trait he can work on - there's no way he's leaving Vanderbilt without becoming at least an average shooter - but it's a big part of why he's a top 30 point guard (ESPN) and not a top 15 one. Other questions about his athleticism and ability to be an effective slasher against high-level NCAA defenses exist as well.
Baldwin was a big pickup for a team that was due for some good news. Stallings needed to swing the spiraling momentum of this summer back into his favor, and picking up a four-star player is a good way to do that. Baldwin will join Damian Jones and Luke Kornet as this team's building blocks for 2015 and beyond. If he can realize his full potential as a hard-driving, physical combo guard, the New Jersey native could be the key to driving the Commodores back to the Sweet Sixteen.