Paolo Banchero in High School at O'Dea and warming up ahead of a Duke game.
Left: Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images, Right: Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

Paolo Banchero was Showing Off His NBA Potential Before He Arrived at Duke

Long, lean, and spry forwards who can shoot are the model for modern basketball. This evolution in the game even convinced the Houston Rockets to abandon centers altogether.

Paolo Banchero out of  O'Dea High School in Seattle, Washington, who then led Duke to a Final Four in 2022, fits the mold. The Italian basketball player can work in the post or step beyond the arc. With those two attributes, Paolo is equipped to succeed in the NBA, but we already knew that from his high school playing days.

Paolo Banchero's High School Highlights

Paolo Banchero during a basketball game for O'Dea High School

Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The 6-foot-9, 235-pound power forward is too quick for bigs and too big for guards. If a frontcourt defender is on him, he'll blow by them towards the rim where he has consistent finishing ability. He converts with solid touch — possessing the capability to adjust in the air — or more authoritatively with dunks. This offensive strategy plaid off big while under the tutelage of Coach Mike Krzyzewski and was on full display during the NCAA Tournament.

Making himself even more dangerous with the ball in his hand, Banchero can shoot from the outside off the catch or dribble. His high release makes it hard to contest. If the three-point shot isn't there, the five-star recruit has a nice midrange game. The Seattle product is patient and takes his time in evaluating the floor. He delivers on-the-money passes to cutting teammates and can lead the fast break. His handles are controlled in space.

The former high school standout at O'Dea monitors the glass and pounces on the ball. He's reliable in snatching a board in clutch situations. Defensively, his long wingspan allows him to chase down blocks in transition, and he's athletic enough to guard multiple positions.

His frame reminds me of Jayson Tatum — Broad shoulders supplemented by a defined build. Although, Banchero is more of a post player than Tatum.

Paolo Banchero Recruiting

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The O'Dea forward was the third-ranked player in the 2021 recruiting class per the 247Sports Composite Rankings. Before finally committing to a school, he narrowed his choices down to six finalists in late April 2020. Panchero's list includes Kentucky, Washington, Gonzaga, Arizona, Tennessee, and Duke.

He held a virtual visit with the Arizona Wildcats this May. Coach K and the Blue Devils hosted Banchero on an official visit in October 2019, then again virtually in April.

According to 247Sports' Crystal Ball Predictions, Banchero was leaning towards playing college basketball at Washington or Kentucky. UK head coach John Calipari conducted a second virtual visit with Banchero in June. But always looming in the corner of Paolo's mind was the fact that his parents both were Huskies. But then a decision was made.

Paolo Banchero reacts to a big play during a Duke Blue Devils basketball game

Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

With uncertainty hanging over the 2020-21 high school basketball season, Banchero announced via Twitter that he intended on playing college basketball for the Duke Blue Devils. The decision came without much warning, but Banchero told ESPN's Paul Biancardi on Instagram Live, "I knew and I wanted to announce it. I did not want to waste any time."

Even at the time he was a high school senior, Paolo was already high up on many  2022 NBA Draft Boards. ranked Banchero as the fifth-rated prospect behind the likes of Emoni Bates and Chet Holmgren. Heading into the 2022 NBA Draft, Banchero still has the potential to snag the top spot in the Draft, but there's just simply no way he falls to a non-lottery team.

And all of that talent, potential and promise was right there in front of us all along.

This article was originally published June 12, 2020. It's been updated to track Paolo Banchero's recruitment.

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