Updated: Jul 9, 2020
If you were composing a wishlist of sought-after characteristics in a modern-day positionless frontcourt player, that list might look something like this: positional size and versatility, high-level basketball IQ, shooting touch, passing feel, defensive awareness, and the ability to protect the rim as well as guard the pick-and-roll. A prospect that checks even a few of these items off the list would be considered appealing. Paolo Banchero, on the other hand, checks every box emphatically. The former quarterback and track star hit a growth spurt, narrowed his focus to basketball and it’s paying off: he’s building a realistic case as the top overall player nationally in the 2021 high school class.
At 6’10+, Banchero is strong, agile, has great hands, and shows incredible acumen on both ends of the floor. He’s flashed shooting potential out to three-point range, is an adept distributor and has to be among the strongest players currently in high school. He has displayed a rare maturity over the years having played up in the EYBL for Seattle Rotary at the U17 level both as a rising sophomore and junior. This past season, he was named Washington’s Gatorade Player of the Year and also won the MaxPreps National Junior Player of the Year award.
Although Banchero has participated in multiple USA Basketball training camps and minicamps up to this point, it seems that he will wind up playing for the Italian National team, where he was hoping to make an appearance as early as this summer. While COVID-19 has put AAU and Italy Basketball on hold for the time being, it seems that Banchero has utilized the time in quarantine to focus on his future, as he shared with Pro Insight that he’s one step closer to making a college decision, having shortened his list down to six programs.
This interview comes approximately one year after Banchero first sat down with Pro Insight, with a lot having developed in that time. This time around, in addition to going into detail with his recruitment, he gives an in-depth look into his development on and off the court, addresses the reclassification rumors, explains how he came to his decision to play for Italy, and much more.
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present 2021 prospect Paolo Banchero, from Seattle, Washington:
Pro Insight: It’s been a year since we did our last Q&A together. What have these past 12 months looked like for you?
Paolo Banchero: I’d say a year ago from now, I had like probably five offers. I was highly ranked, was just getting started in AAU...I was pretty confident in my game, but I’d say now I’m a lot more confident. I got a bunch of offers over the summer and kind of ‘blew up’ in a way. So yeah, I think a lot changed — I think I got a lot better between then and now.
PI: In what areas have you developed and matured on the court this past season?
PB: I think I talk a lot more, verbally, to my teammates...just communicating. Trying to do that all the time, just so it makes things easier for us as a team, if everyone is talking and communicating. I think also, for myself, I’m moving way better. I’ve done a lot of work on my body and I still am — and I think I’m moving way better, laterally, quick, I think I’m a lot more explosive, so I just think my body has come a long way in that period of time.
PI: How about off the court?
PB: I think I’ve continued to get more focused...not saying I wasn’t focused, but just seeing that my goals were getting closer and closer, I’ve just been trying to limit distractions and keep my circle small. It’s been about keeping the main goal the main goal and not getting distracted.
PI: Do you feel like you still have some unfinished business at the high school level?
PB: I definitely want to win another one [state title]. I’m looking forward to my senior year and I always have, because I feel like it will be the year when no one really can stop me. I feel like this year, you know, I was pretty dominant and unstoppable but I feel like my senior year, if I put in enough work, I will really be unguardable. So I’ve always kind of looked forward to that. I still think there’s some unfinished business, especially since we lost this year...I would want to come back and redeem myself.
PI: What all do you hope to accomplish before graduating a year from now?
PB: I want to win another state championship; I want to make some national noise with my high school team, whether that’s a national tournament or an ESPN game, and win that; I want to play in all the All-American games; and if there’s still a little bit of AAU this summer, I want to play in Peach [Jam], win at Peach...this year, I feel like we had a really good team put together.
PI: Once and for all, set the record straight on the talk of you reclassing from 2021 to 2020.
PB: Yeah, it was something that I was considering this past summer. I was considering it...I talked about it with my family and coaches and all that, but now I am 100% 2021. Everybody knows that, I know that. A lot of people think that I’m like lying, holding off, to make some announcement, but I’m not doing that. I get why they might be saying that since other people have done that, but I’m staying in 2021.
PI: In light of COVID-19, how has your life been personally affected?
PB: I still have to get up early for school, online school. I get up at 8, but I’m at home all day. I haven’t really gone out and done anything. I went out and ran some hills last weekend, but other than that, I’ve just been in the house. The only time I’ve really left the house is to work out.
PI: More specifically, what does a current ‘day in the life’ of Paolo Banchero look like?
PB: I wake up, go to school from like 8 a.m. to 12:00 or 12:30 p.m., and then I chill, maybe take a nap, go work out at 6 p.m. I go work out four days of the week — every day but Wednesday — then get back around 8 p.m., do homework, eat, then go to sleep.
PI: What do you miss most about the ‘pre-COVID’ world, and why?
PB: I miss everything being normal! Like being able to go places. I miss AAU. I would definitely rather be back at school like normal than this right here...some people are happy that school is ‘canceled’ and whatnot, but I’d much rather have everything back to normal so I could be playing AAU and hanging out with my friends, and stuff. Just missing my regular day-to-day life.
PI: Before COVID-19 put everything on hold, what were you most looking forward to on the EYBL circuit?
PB: This was the year where we really thought we had a chance to win. My first year, we were really good and we thought we could’ve made the final four, but we weren’t sure if we could win; last year, we were lucky to make Peach Jam...we were just happy to be there; but this year, we really thought we could win — we got some new people, so I was just