Photo courtesy of Position Sports/Jon Lopez/Nike
By David Cordova
The hoops culture in the city of Seattle continues to grow each and every year. Although there is no longer an NBA team, the hoops culture out there is on the up and up. And the high school scene out there is as good as any of the other cities out on the West Coast.
And speaking of the high school scene, there is one special talent out there that is making a name for himself nationally at the present moment. That talent is none other than Paolo Banchero. The 6-foot-8 rising junior forward is one of the best wings out there as he is rated as the No. 5 prospect in the Class of 2021 by ESPN.
And his talent matches his ranking as he is very dominant when going up for a dunk and also mixing and matching in and out of the lane. His versatility on the court makes it easy for him to score and be effective on the court.
At the Top 100 Camp last month in Charlottesville, Virginia, he stood out as one of the camp’s best and put on a great performance in front of college coaches and NBA scouts that evaluated him or may one day inquire about his services in the future.
When asked about his camp experience, he replied, “It’s been good, a lot of competition on a team with great players against a bunch of great players. Yeah, it’s been a great experience.”
On being from Seattle and its basketball culture, he replied, “It’s a great culture. We have a strong basketball culture in Seattle. It’s kind of underrated, but I think we’re starting to put it on the map. We had Kevin Porter, [Jr.] in the draft and a lot of players coming out.”
As a freshman at O’Dea High School, a private, all-boys Catholic high school in Seattle, he was on a mission to get noticed. He averaged 14 points and 10 rebounds per game. This past season as a sophomore, he was on a tear, as he averaged 18.2 points, 10.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists as he led the Irish to a 20-8 record and the school’s first state championship since 2007.
Because of his efforts, he was named to the Washington Association Press 3A first-team All-State squad and was also named to the Max Preps Boys Sophomore All-American Team nationally.
At the present time, he holds offers from some of the nation’s finest programs in Arizona, Iowa State, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, USC, Memphis, Oklahoma, Oregon State, Washington and Vanderbilt, to name a few.
Although he is now a rising junior, a lot of attention will be coming from the schools that offered him and more. When asked what the colleges that offered him will have to do to land his services, he replied, “I just want to go to a school that needs me, a family environment, a place that I can call home.”
The University of Washington, which is one of the schools that have offered him thus far, are on the rise as a program. And because of it, Banchero will feel a strong lure to stay close to home and play in his home state. “It’s a great program, three of my AAU teammates are going there,” he said of Washington as an option. “Jaden [McDaniels], Marcus [Tsohonis] and RaeQuan [Battle], so yeah, it’s a great program, closer to home, I don’t live too far from there.”
As for his skills and what he can do, he replied, “I’m kind of like a stretch four, but I can play the three too, yeah, just can kind of do whatever, I can play on the wing, I can play inside, but if it was up to me, I’d prefer to be in the mid-range, from 17 feet out, operate from in there.”
In today’s pro game, versatile forwards are in. When asked who he emulates, Banchero replied, “I watch a lot of NBA, I like to watch Anthony Davis, a lot of passing bigs, too. Ben Simmons, he’s a point-forward, he passes it real well, I like Blake Griffin, too.”
This spring and summer, he was one of the most formidable players on the Nike EYBL with the Seattle Rotary as he averaged 22.7 points, 11.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.4 blocks per game and led his squad to the Peach Jam in North Augusta, South Carolina.
But although he’s getting plenty of attention from schools, he doesn’t feel the pressure to perform or change anything. “I just play my game,” said Banchero, “I don’t really think I gotta do anything special, I think if they notice me, I just gotta keep playing how I am, just keep playing hard.”
For Paolo Banchero, the best is yet to come.