Baldwin shines for Spartans in leadership role
Above: La Canada senior forward Will Baldwin. (Correspondent photo by Larry Goren)
By Scott Galetti, Staff Writer
You hardly knew he was on the floor a year ago.
Even with a 6-foot-3 frame, Will Baldwin blended in with the rest of the La Canada boys basketball team.
He wasn’t flashy and averaged less than four points and two rebounds per game.
With Adam Malik scoring more than 24 points and grabbing eight rebounds a game, Baldwin was the embodiment of a role player. He did what was asked of him every night.
“Towards the end of the year I started to have a bigger role coming off the bench, usually behind Ross Grandolph and Jackson Ridd,” Baldwin said. “But my job wasn’t really to score or do much. It was just kind of to get rebounds, get a few points here and there and help Adam get the ball.”
This season, Baldwin, now 6-foot-4, has seen his role change significantly. And the soft-spoken senior has taken on his new challenge as the Spartans’ leader with zeal.
“He’s gotten a little better at every aspect of the game but, what’s even more impressive, is his leadership with the team,” La Ca ada coach Tom Hofman said. “He brought the most experience on the floor, and I think he’s not only taken his game to another level but he’s also bringing the other players along with him with his leadership.”
Entering Wednesday’s game against Temple City, Baldwin was averaging 18.4 points and 9.6 rebounds.
Baldwin, who had 43 rebounds all of last season, nearly got half of that last week against Blair when he pulled down 20.
He became just the fifth player in school history to achieve the feat and the first since Chris Jones grabbed 23 rebounds in a playoff game against Pomona on Feb. 15, 1989.
“I actually had no idea of how many rebounds I had,” Baldwin said. “I guess it was just one of those games where it’s a bit of effort and a bit of luck, just happening to be in the area where the balls were falling.
“When I was told that I had 20 rebounds, I was kind of like, `Are you sure?”‘
Added Hofman: “Nobody gets rebounds anymore in bulk, it is more team rebounding. So for an individual to get 20 rebounds today, that’s really unbelievable.”
Baldwin, a well-balanced student-athlete boasting a 3.8 grade-point average, is a student of the game. The senior forward learned a lot from playing behind Malik and has used the experience to better his own game.
“He was extremely dedicated to basketball and played at such a level, just seeing the way he can play, just motivated me,” Baldwin said. “The way he rebounded, the way he shot, the kind of well-rounded player he was, just kind of showed me the possibilities of the kind of player I could become.”
In practice, Baldwin was reminded of Malik’s talent on a regular basis.
“I had to guard him a lot, so I knew his offensive moves and what he could do, so I knew from where I needed to go to become a player of that kind of caliber,” Baldwin said.
Perhaps the biggest change in his game is his new-found ability to shoot from outside the 3-point arc.
“Seeing Adam and how he was so tall and a huge portion of his game was from beyond the 3-point line,” Baldwin said. “I figured it can’t hurt to learn how to shoot a three, so this year I’ve been working on it a ton.”
Baldwin has scored in double figures in all but two games this season and has nine double-doubles.
He scored a season-high 32 points in a 65-52 win over La Salle on Dec. 11 .
He’s mainly just enjoying the experience of playing his senior season.
“I’m really happy with the player that I am, and the thing is, I’m having a great time this year,” Baldwin said. “What I’m really most impressed with, though, is the way the team has come together.
“The most I take out of this experience, so far, is the way the seniors that were on the team last year have been able to bring the team together, and hopefully I can be a leader for this team.”
Baldwin is learning to become a leader in different forms.
He is heavily involved in activities at All Saints Church in Pasadena and is a member of the Young Democrats Club.
“Through that, I do a lot of political activism. I’ve interned for a congressman and an assemblyman, so politics is one of the areas that I really enjoy,” Baldwin said.
Added Hofman: “He’s got a lot of irons in the fire right now and I think basketball is a lot of fun and he gives it 100 percent, but he realizes that there’s a lot more out there than just playing basketball.”
After he graduates, Baldwin said he isn’t sure if basketball is something he wants to pursue at the collegiate level.
“I’m just not sure if my future is really in basketball,” Baldwin said. “I definitely want to play intramural or some sort of basketball in college, but whether or not, intensely, I still haven’t yet decided.”