Baldwin working the trail for Northwestern

Publisher Nick Medline touches on the hot topics in Northwestern basketball recruiting.

When does Patrick Baldwin put down the phone? Amidst the confusion as this coaching staff was taking shape, Baldwin quietly forged his reputation in several recruiting circles. He, perhaps more so than anyone thus far, has embodied those "broad-based" ties that athletic director Jim Phillips so badly wanted. Recruits have witnessed firsthand the passion from Baldwin, who embraced this job from the moment he set down in Evanston.

This past weekend, with now-unlimited calls allowed for 2015 in-state prospects, Baldwin continued his strong opening. He's working overtime to land Evan Boudreaux–who could be a power forward solution–and is passionate about rebuilding this program. An enthusiastic presence from many accounts, he wants to be responsible for reeling in future talents. It's an admirable opening to his NU career.

Here's something else: Baldwin could very well expand that recruiting influence. We won't know for sure until July, but at Missouri State, he likely witnessed strong players in the south. We've learned that this staff will be especially aggressive in recruiting; prepare to be surprised and impressed by their work. Right now, they're more familiar with players close to home. That all could change for a team looking to build its reputation across the country. Patrick Baldwin will not stop at mediocrity.

Three Pointers

Evan Boudreaux seems like the potentially perfect addition to this team. The 2015 power forward from Lake Forest (Ill.) formed strong relationships with the old coaching staff. Now, the new group is still dedicated to his recruitment—as they should be. Boudreaux continues to see his interest pick up while rounding out his game. He's a "stretch four," a description hilariously common among NU prospects. But Boudreaux has unique ability. He's comfortable with shooting off of pick-and-rolls, and then backs down opponents on the interior. He's feisty, and with some improvements, could turn the program around. The Wildcats are making him one of their top priorities.

Tavaras Hardy, all the way from Georgetown, will damage NU's recruiting efforts. As Gates has done with Matt Rafferty, Hardy carried some of his past connections to the new job. It's all fair game, but should damage NU's chances with several prospects. When an Illinois Stars AAU coach tweeted that Georgetown told Aaron Jordan–one of the state's best players for 2015–that they would pursue him "hard," it became clear that Coach Hardy would utilize his Chicago ties. That's what they hired him to do, but it's up to this entirely new coaching staff to re-establish relationships with key targets. The future of the program rests on it.

Point guards. Northwestern needs some. The current roster includes one natural point guard in Dave Sobolewski. Late last season, the floor general grew weary and watched his production tail off. It must be disheartening for any point guard to be in that situation, but in the future, this team could desperately use some help. Marcus Bartley is one solution, yes. Chicago hoops analyst Scott Burgess reported that Belleville East (Ill.) point guard Darreon Reddick will visit NU later this month. They need to cast their net very wide in this situation. The Cats would benefit from added depth. Two point guard signings in the next two years would be a positive starting point.

Names to Watch

Malek Harris, Carl Sandburg (Ill.)

Patrick Baldwin reached out to Harris in recent weeks, trying to pitch the value of an in-state program. Baldwin, for good reason, wants to help perpetuate the Illinois Wolves AAU pipeline. That team brought Dave Sobolewski, John Shurna and Nate Taphorn to Northwestern. Maintaining these local relationships should prove beneficial on the trail in future years. Harris, though, seems like a major longshot given his interest in Iowa, Purdue and other schools.

Matt Rafferty, Hinsdale Central (Ill.)

Armon Gates led his recruitment at Loyola. When the new assistant arrived at Northwestern, he immediately flexed his muscles by inviting Rafferty on an unofficial visit Wednesday. Rafferty, a self-described "stretch four," should see his stock rise with continued improvement this season. Gates has made inroads on the 2015 prospect, and thankfully for NU, this carried over to the new-look program.

Cody Schwartz, West De Pere (Wis.)

He's a sleeper target, but shouldn't be. The 2015 power forward stood out to me after some strong performances at the Spiece Run N Slam in early May. He has an impressive midrange game, solid intangibles and intensity. All of these qualities are attractive to college coaches. This staff is up on Schwartz, and soon, other teams will be. It's a positive sign that NU showed interest quickly.


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