This college basketball season was a great one for names. My personal favorite is Leaky Black, and Chet Holmgren sounds like a 1940’s gumshoe, but for pure majesty, you can’t beat Paolo Napoleon James Banchero.
Paolo is a 6’10”, 250 lbs power forward who hails from Seattle, WA. According to Wikipedia.org, Banchero was a whopper of a baby, reaching three feet tall by 15 months. Credit goes to good genes: his mother is Rhonda Banchero, the all-time leading scorer for the Washington Huskies and an ex-WNBA hooper, and his father, Mario Banchero, was a Husky tight-end. Coming out of high school, Paolo, a five-star recruit, surprised his hometown fans when he chose the Duke Blue Devils over his parents’ UW.
In 39 games, the freshman led Duke with 17.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, and his 3.2 dimes rated second only to Wendell Moore. Paolo, who shot 48% from the floor, proved adept at scoring from mid-range with pull-ups and fadeaways, as well as with post-ups and lobs. He’s fast for his size, too, and I’d love to see him in a foot race with Obi Toppin.
UNC knocked Duke out of the Final Four of the 2022 NCAA Tournament, despite Banchero scoring 20 points and 10 rebounds. On April 20, 2022, he declared for the NBA Draft and is projected to be a top-3 pick.
Roll that beautiful Banchero footage.
Paolo is chockful of confidence, justifiably so. Already, the 19-year-old has compiled an illustrious career:
- Consensus second-team All-American (2022)
- ACC Rookie of the Year (2022)
- First-team All-ACC (2022)
- ACC All-Rookie Team (2022)
- McDonald’s All-American (2021)
- Jordan Brand Classic (2021)
- Nike Hoop Summit (2021)
He is an ox and yet sleek; a versatile playmaker with advanced skills, handles, and creativity. Effortlessly, he finds his spots and generates his own shots, or he’ll whip a spot-on pass for the assist. In fact, he started as a point guard before a seventh-grade growth spurt, and he has demonstrated the ability to steer an offense as a point forward.
Yet more footage of Banchero at work:
Paolo Banchero is the best player in the draftpic.twitter.com/IcUqW1ZznB— The Brotherhood (@BrotherhoodCBB) April 20, 2022
The freshman took more shots than any other Blue Devil, finishing the season with 513 attempts. Player comparisons include Blake Griffin, Chris Webber, and Julius Randle, and like those examples, he’s sure to bully his way to the rim for and-1’s on the pro level.
He knows how to work the offensive glass and play the ricochet. There are flashes of defensive competency, too, and he has the capability of guarding any position, but more on that below. For now, enjoy Paolo sticking it to Campbell for 18 points and five rebounds:
Accuracy will be on his Stuff-to-Improve list for the foreseeable future. Banchero took 25% of his shots from the perimeter (3.3 attempts) with a completion rate of 34%. At Duke, he went 0-fer from deep 11 times and had several more chilly games beyond the arc. In addition, he shot 73% from the charity stripe.
His physicality and scoring tendencies are not his only resemblances to Julius Randle. Too often, the young Blue Devil was disengaged on the defensive end, whether not reaching to contest a shot, missing rotations, losing his man, not boxing out, or jogging back in transition. All the stuff Randle did to infuriate fans this season. The Tar Heels targeted Banchero in the final game, to mixed results—he got burned but also had a few nice recoveries to contest at the rim. Overall, though, he played flakey defense in arguably the biggest game of the year, which might give an NBA scout pause.
So, where will he land? Probably Detroit, paired with Cade Cunningham, especially if Jerami Grant leaves town. One scenario that would bring Paolo to the New York Knicks: New York lands a top-four pick, trades away Randle and replaces him with Banchero. I might, like Werner Herzog, eat my shoe if that actually happens. Frankly, I’m weary of big men who play intermittent defense, but it would be fun to chant his name with 18,000 of my closest friends at the Garden.
I bid you arrivederci with a “mini-documentary” about the budding star: