VCU Basketball: Rams add four signees on National Signing Day
Adrian “Ace” Baldwin (Baltimore, Md./St. Frances Academy), Josh Banks (Charlotte, N.C./Olympic), Mikeal Brown-Jones (Philadelphia, Pa./IMG Academy), and Jamir Watkins (Trenton, N.J./Trenton Catholic) signed National Letters of Intent with VCU on Wednesday.
The foursome comprise the Atlantic 10 Conference’s top-rated 2019 recruiting class, according to 247Sports.com.
Wednesday’s signings lay the foundation for the next era of VCU Basketball under Rhoades, now in his third season at the helm. The Rams will graduate five seniors following the 2019-20 season.
“We are super excited to welcome these four young men to our VCU Basketball family,” said Rhoades. “Each one of them comes from a successful high school program. Jamir, Ace, Mikeal and Josh are going to impact our program and help us continue the tradition of VCU Basketball. We can’t wait until they arrive on campus to join their teammates and coaches.”
Baldwin is a 6-foot point guard who is known for his playmaking abilities. In 2018-19 he averaged 14 points, six assists, four rebounds and four steals per game as he led St. Frances to a 38-6 record, as well as Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference and Baltimore Catholic A League championships.
A four-star recruit, according to ESPN and Rivals.com, Baldwin was named the 2019 All-Metro Player of the Year by the Baltimore Sun.
Baldwin played on the EYBL circuit, heralded the most competitive grassroots league in the country, and led Team Durant to the prestigious Peach Jam in July.
He chose VCU over interest from Virginia, Villanova, Georgetown, Maryland, Kansas State, Seton Hall and others.
“We got the best and most competitive player in the state of Maryland this year, which is impressive,” Rhoades said. “Building a special relationship with he and his family has been great. He perfectly fits our style of play and competitive culture. He’s a point guard that can defend, make plays with the ball in his hands and make his teammates better. Ace comes from a successful high school program, headed by coach Nick Myles, and will be a great fit to the VCU family.”
Banks is a 6-5 shooting guard ranked among the best players in the state of North Carolina. An athletic scorer, Banks has outstanding touch from the outside, as well as the athleticism to get to the rim.
In 2018-19, Banks averaged 20.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists to lead Olympic to a 21-6 record. For his efforts, Banks was named SoMECK 7 4A Player of the Year by the Charlotte Observer.
Banks poured in 16.2 points per game and shot 47 percent from the field on the 2019 EYBL circuit for Team United.
He picked VCU over Temple, Providence, Virginia Tech, Charleston and others.
“Josh was a highly recruited wing coming from a very good program in a hotbed of high school basketball,” Rhoades said. “He will bring a versatile skill set and great energy that we need in our program. Having been coached by Baronton Terry, I have no doubt Josh will be prepared for college basketball. I look forward to seeing how good Josh Banks will be in his VCU career. We got a talented player with a bright future. He’s a great fit for the VCU family.”
Brown-Jones is a 6-8, 210-pound forward with outstanding defensive instincts and an inside-out scoring ability. His length and athleticism mesh well with VCU’s aggressive defensive system.
Rated a four-star recruit by Rivals, Brown-Jones helped IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. to a 31-1 record and a victory in the Geico High School Nationals Championship in April. As a sophomore he led Girard College in Philadelphia to the PIAA Class A State Championship Game and averaged 22.0 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game.
Brown-Jones chose VCU after receiving interest from Penn State, Temple, Villanova, South Florida and others.
“I love what Mikeal brings to the court every day,” Rhoades said. “He’s a versatile forward with a toughness we really need. He won a high school national championship last year and knows what it takes. His enthusiasm and approach are leadership-level, and he will impact our team in so many ways. I’m eager to see him work with his teammates in the future. I’m excited Mikeal is part of the VCU family.”
Watkins is a 6-7 forward out of Trenton, N.J. A three-star standout. His versatility and athleticism are hallmarks of Rhoades’ fast-paced system.
In 2018-19, Watkins supplied Trenton Catholic with 18.6 points per game. In addition, he averaged 9.1 points and 5.7 rebounds for Team Final over the summer in Nike EYBL play. Watkins shot 45 percent from the field, including 82 percent from the free throw line.
Watkins signed with VCU after drawing interest from Seton Hall, St. John’s, Virginia Tech, West Virginia and others.
“We got ourselves a throwback VCU Basketball player,” Rhoades said. “Jamir is a big, strong and versatile forward with a skill set that keeps improving. He will be able to play multiple positions with his athleticism, adept ball handling and toughness. He has played at a great high school in a very competitive environment. I can’t wait to get Jamir on campus and watch him grow. He’s another great fit for our VCU family.”