A new coach and new faces mean uncertainty for Milwaukee in 2023
“Fire Baldwin” chants echoing throughout the sparse crowd at the once packed Panther Arena in downtown Milwaukee. Never thought those words would be coming out of fans mouths after landing a Five-Star recruit in Patrick Baldwin, Jr., son of former Head Coach Patrick Baldwin. An incredible offseason in 2021 as the Panthers had landed Baldwin, kept DeAndre Gholston, added transfers Samba Kane (San Francisco) and Moses Bol (UCF), and even landed commitments from Markeith Browning (Coffeyville JC), Jasin Sinani (Oak Creek HS), and Kyle Ross (Lake Central HS). The Panthers even had a former four star recruit Jordan Lathon from UTEP who was regarded as a four star recruit out of High School.
The stars were aligning with the Panthers for the first time in years, even after their miraculous run to the Horizon League semifinals, where they lost to eventual champion, Cleveland State. However, Milwaukee is going to Milwaukee. The Panthers endured their worst KenPom ranking in the Baldwin era, the team went 10-22, Baldwin, Sr. got fired, and Baldwin, Jr. entered the transfer portal and got drafted 28th by the Golden State Warriors.
The Panthers had eventually entered the coaching search and landed Bart Lundy, formerly of Queens University in Charlotte. Lundy comes in to Milwaukee after a couple of stints elsewhere, as he was an assistant at North Texas, Head Coach of High Point University, and even was a Director of Basketball Operations at Marquette with Buzz Williams.
Jordan Ratliffe – Ratliffe, a senior guard coming in from Division 2 UNC Pembroke, is an very talented scorer. A do it all 5’10 guard with veteran presence should really help the Panthers out at the 1 or the 2 spot this season. Ratliffe started his career at VMI, where he averaged 7.3 points per game as a freshman.
Angelo Stuart – Angelo Stuart comes in from Hutchinson (JUCO) and once previously played at Seattle U in the WAC. The 6’1 Stuart brings in vocal energy across the court and can be counted on heavily to nail the three point shot as he went 104-257 from downtown at Hutch this past season. Stuart provides an immediate scoring impact from beyond the arc for the Panthers. He needs to work on crashing the glass and on ball defense.
Vin Baker Jr – Baker Jr. is one of three players on this year’s team that played last year. He was a solid player, averaging 5.3 points and 3.2 rebounds. Three of his four double-digit scoring nights came after Pat Baldwin Jr. was injured and removed from the lineup. He might not be the All-League player that some publications have predicted, but Baker Jr. should have a good chance to start for Milwaukee this season.
Ahmad Rand – Hey Siri, play “Jumpman” by Drake. This guy is one of the most athletic players to put on a Panther uniform and he has not even suited up yet. The sky is the limit for the Oregon State/Memphis transfer who previously before those two schools, played under Jake Williams at USC-Salk, a JUCO. The lanky, 6’9 Rand will block anyone’s shot coming into the lane and will throw down some massive dunks this season for Panther fans. Look for Rand to have some really special games for Milwaukee. A consistent jumpshot for Rand would greatly improve his already special game. A potential All-Horizon League type talent, Ahmad Rand will be starting for the Panthers come November 8th against Purdue.
Keon Edwards – the once former top 100 recruit enrolled early at DePaul, transferred, and then ended up at Nebraska last year seeing limited court action. The talent is there, as we all saw it in high school, and now it is a matter of putting it on the court at a college level for more than 20 minutes a game. I think this spot for a player like Edwards is huge to show what his game is really made of and I think he will thrive in this system. He is a great, athletic player that likes to shoot the 3, take his guy off the dribble, or get to the rack and throw down a dunk. Edwards defensively needs some work and his quickness could be an issue, but I am projecting him as a starter with a ton of upside.
Jalen Johnson – Jalen Johnson? Milwaukee? Unfortunately Milwaukee natives, not the Jalen Johnson we had dreams about 3 years ago. However, this Jalen Johnson is a very neat player and could provide a huge role for the Panthers. The 6-7 forward loves to attack the rim and work inside. He is a great inside presence for the Panthers that will be needed and can also provide a nice outside shot but will not take many 3 point shots. 90% of his shots will happen inside the paint but it will happen very efficiently. An Alabama A&M transfer, he had 30 points against Cincinnati and even earned All-SWAC honors this past season averaging 16 points and 7 rebounds. Johnson is not projected to be a start but will be one of the first to come off the bench.
Markeith Browning – Browning is another returning player for the Panthers. He averaged 4.4 points and 2.0 rebounds for Milwaukee last year, missing over a month after injuring his hand in November. Browning did end his season on a good note, hitting four of his eight shots and scoring 11 points in 23 minutes.
Justin Thomas – A 6-7 skinny player from Navarro College, Thomas is an incredible get for Milwaukee and will be huge for the Panthers in the coming years. A former Lundy player, he decided to go JUCO and earned offers from Texas A&M, Georgia Tech, and East Carolina. It seems to me like Thomas will provide athleticism off the bench and could very well start for the Panthers but it will be interesting to see what his game is actually like at a Division 1 level.
BJ Freeman – is a JUCO transfer from Dodge City where his head coach, Jake Williams, is now an assistant at Milwaukee. He ended his prep career at Moravian Prep in North Carolina. Freeman’s freshman stats are nothing to mess around with, as he averaged 13/3/2 as a true freshman. He is a three-level scorer and good at all scoring but will love to get to the rim. Freeman is also a very good passer and has good instincts with the ball and really won’t force any bad turnovers. On ball defense and speed will need to improve throughout the fall and winter and can be really successful as a Panther.
Kentrell Pullian – Pullian became the Panthers’ last recruit after the sudden move from Eden Holt to enter the portal. The 6-foot-tall guard comes from Eastern New Mexico where he averaged 12 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists per game. He led his team in all three categories. On paper, he seems to be a very physical player and an incredible rebounder for his size.
Eight of the 10 players in this preview have never played for the Panthers before, so it’s hard to figure out how good the team will be. There are a lot of talented players and Lundy had a winning record right away in a more difficult situation at High Point right after they moved to Division I. But there are still a lot of questions to be answered. Getting so many unfamiliar players to work together without a true point guard can be a huge challenge. As a result, we’re projecting the Panthers to finish in the bottom half of the standings this season.
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