Breaking: 5-star recruit an absolute gamechanger in the Horizon League
Milwaukee made the biggest headline of the offseason when Patrick Baldwin Jr. committed to play for the Panthers and became the league’s highest rated high school recruit ever. Baldwin Jr. single-handedly changes the Panthers’ prospects for the season in a big way. Last year’s Horizon League Tournament 8-seed enters the year expected to contend thanks largely to the 6-foot-9 forward who was the seventh ranked recruit in the nation this season.
Beyond Baldwin, Milwaukee’s roster has an intriguing amount of size. The Panthers could very well trot out a starting five made of players 6-foot-4 and taller with a 7-footer in the paint. That could be a significant advantage for Milwaukee frequently in a league that is largely lacking in that department.
Patrick Baldwin Jr. – At this point, I’ve probably written 2,000 words on the 6-foot-9 freshman, and he’s received plenty of coverage from media in Wisconsin and nationally about his decision to spurn Duke in favor of his dad and Milwaukee. It goes without saying that he’s a gamechanger for the Panthers, and it’s why he became the first freshman to earn Preseason All-Horizon League honors.
Jordan Lathon – Lathon was included in last year’s preview when it looked like a waiver for immediate eligibility might be in his future, but wound up suffering an injury that required surgery before one was granted. As a result, he’s back in the newcomer section. The 6-foot-4 guard averaged double figure scoring as a freshman at UTEP, and led the team in assists in both seasons. He’s likely to be the Panthers’ starting point guard out of the gate.
Samba Kane – Kane is a 7-foot tall transfer who played last year at the University of San Francisco after spending his first season at Illinois. The Dakar, Senegal native averaged 2.7 points and 2.3 rebounds for the Dons in 2021. Look for Kane to have a chance to play significant minutes for the Panthers right away.
Markeith Browning – Browning comes to Milwaukee after starting as a redshirt freshman at Coffeyville Community College, where he won a NJCAA Division I National Championship. Browning averaged 8.5 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game. The most intriguing elements of his game are his athleticism and his defense. While the starting spots on the wing seem solidly claimed, Browning should provide an excellent spark off the bench.
Moses Bol – Milwaukee has a few players that are more highly regarded than Bol who are set to take the court this season, but they’re primarily wing players and the Panthers have a strong group there. Bol is a graduate transfer from Central Florida, but injuries have kept him from seeing the floor to this point. If he’s healthy, he could provide another 7-foot rim protector for a Panther team that looks to be very perimeter-oriented.
Jordan Lathon – While Milwaukee’s projections for this season took a hit when two-time All-Horizon League guard Te’Jon Lucas transferred to BYU, Lathon offers a lot as a replacement. He may not be a pure point guard the way that Lucas was, but his size and athleticism should allow him to be a difficult matchup for several schools in the league. Lathon struggled with shooting as a sophomore at UTEP despite having a dominant post player in Bryson WIlliams to open things up from the outside. The Panthers will undoubtedly be hoping that having a standout perimeter scorer in Patrick Baldwin Jr. will open up space for Lathon to score points closer to the basket this season.
Josh Thomas – For the first time in his Milwaukee career, Josh Thomas will enter the season as a projected starter, and it’s for very good reason. After working his way into a starting spot last year, Thomas was an absolute standout for the last month of the season. The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 18.3 points while hitting 61.7 percent of his shots from the field. While he hasn’t been a great 3-point shooter through his two seasons with the Panthers, he knocked down 40 percent of his shots from long range in that stretch. If Thomas can carry that momentum into this season, it’ll go a long way toward the Panthers living up to the hype.
DeAndre Gholston – Gholston starred in his first season at Milwaukee, leading the team in scoring with 16.8 points per game and finishing second in rebounding with 5.2 per game. If the Panthers had done a little better in the Horizon League standings, he would’ve been a shoo-in for an All-League spot. With Milwaukee projected to finish near the top of the league this year, Gholston is projected as a Second Team All-League pick by both the Horizon League and our staff at HoriZone Roundtable. The addition of Baldwin to the lineup could easily lead to better looks for Gholston, who already shot an impressive clip as a junior.
Patrick Baldwin Jr. – Baldwin Jr. is projected to be a borderline lottery pick in the 2022 NBA Draft more for the skill he has at 6-foot-9 than for being a raw athlete. If he’s going to follow through on that, he’ll have to live up to that First Team Preseason All-League hype. The 6-foot-9 forward has shooting touch beyond the 3-point arc, and the size to be a nightmare to defend.
Samba Kane – Kane likely won’t be a huge contributor on the offensive end for the Panthers, but with a lineup full of talented offensive players and a pair of shooters with great size he won’t need to be one. Kane’s main role will be to protect the rim. He averaged 0.6 blocks per game at both of his previous stops so far, but did so in fairly limited minutes. He played just 9.6 minutes per game for San Francisco last season.
Unlike every other projected for the top half of the league, Milwaukee isn’t here because it’s returning the core of a team that showed it knew how to win in 2021. The Panthers return several players from last year’s roster, but it’s the league’s only projected NBA Draft pick that allows the team to skyrocket into contention in 2022. On paper, Patrick Baldwin Jr. looks like he has the potential to be the Horizon League’s best freshman since Gordon Hayward.
Combining Baldwin Jr. with two wings that have proven to be high-level players at the Horizon League level and a number of transfers that seem to give the team size and athleticism makes it easy to see why the team is widely expected to make such a significant leap this season. While there are question marks, NBA talent goes a long way toward smoothing those over.
Miss anything from Preview Week? Check it all out below:
Cleveland State • Wright State • Milwaukee • Detroit Mercy
Northern Kentucky • Oakland • Purdue Fort Wayne • Youngstown State
UIC • Robert Morris • Green Bay • IUPUI
Green Bay (WBB) • Cleveland State (WBB)