Is Wade Baldwin IV the greatest Commodore to ever be threatened by Kevin Stallings on national television?
Fortunately, that's a small sample size, but the freshman guard showed signs of greatness in 2015. Despite a midseason slump, he managed to lead the team in assists while limiting turnovers from the point - an especially significant feat considering the amount of full court presses that Vanderbilt dealt with last season. More importantly, he averaged 12.7 points, five rebounds, and six assists per game - while shooting 50 percent from three-point range - against Tennessee.
But was his overall season a success? Let's track his progress from his first day on campus to the Commodores' NIT quarterfinal defeat to Stanford.
Wade Baldwin IV
Preseason expectations: Wade Baldwin IV was a four-star recruit who came to Vanderbilt despite offers from Pittsburgh, Minnesota, and VCU. He was a physically strong high school player that projected out at either guard position for the Commodores, so it was initially unclear if he'd be able to beat out Riley LaChance, Matthew Fisher-Davis, and Shelton Mitchell for the two open starting spots in the Vandy backcourt. He projected as one of the most physically ready players to join the recruiting class of 2014, but questions about his shooting ability made his role in a Kevin Stallings offense unclear.
2014-15 Stats: 28.8 mpg, 9.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 4.1 apg, 1.4 steals, 1.9 turnovers, 43.9 FG%, 43.9 3PT%
2014-15 Comments: Baldwin emerged as a triple-double threat thanks to a solid basketball IQ and aggressive two-way play. He answered questions about his shooting ability by making nearly 44 percent of his shots from behind the arc. The freshman started strong in his first four games but fell into a prolonged slump that followed him into SEC play. He responded to that adversity in a big way. Baldwin averaged 14.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, and five assists per game in a 7-1 Commodore stretch late in the season.
The advanced stats peg him as a more valuable player than anyone on the team other than James Siakam. He accounted for 4.4 win shares this season and had as much of a defensive impact as Damian Jones did. More importantly, he was the most successful member of the young Commodore backcourt when it came to compressing defenses by getting the ball into the paint. While LaChance and Fisher-Davis were more likely to shoot threes, Baldwin gave the team a reasonable drive-and-dish threat on the perimeter.
Did Wade underperform, meet expectations, or exceed expectations? Baldwin grew throughout the year and backed up his words by showing up in a big way to beat Tennessee in Knoxville. Though a midseason slump helped shift much of the media attention to LaChance, the New Jersey native was arguably the most important freshman on the Vanderbilt roster. That qualifies as exceeding expectations.
2015-16 expectations: Baldwin will likely remain unmurdered by his head coach and continue to develop into a high-level SEC point guard. His ability to stuff a stat sheet, fill two positions, and play bigger than his frame reminds me of Mississippi State's Jamont Gordon. If he can live up to that comparison, it would be a major benefit for the Commodores. He'll team with Riley LaChance to give the team a dynamic starting backcourt, but they'll have to be wary of a sophomore slump to guide Vanderbilt back to the NCAA Tournament in 2016.