Paolo Banchero Q&A
Updated: Jun 11, 2022
For the next installment of the Q&A series, Pro Insight presents Paolo Banchero, one of the top players in the 2021 class, from Seattle, Washington:
Pro Insight: First off, congrats on the state championship. Let’s talk about your season at O’Dea – talk about your run to the 3A title and what your team had to overcome to get there.
Paolo Banchero: Well we had an up-and-down season – we rarely had our full squad, this year. There were stretches where me and Noah Williams were both injured and we lost John Christofilis for the season, but going into the state tournament, we still knew we could win. We felt disrespected by our seed and that gave us a chip on our shoulder. We knew if we played team defense, the offense would come along. That’s what we did the whole tournament and we ended up winning it.
PI: Out of all the guys you matched up with this year, who was the toughest?
PB: I’d probably say Tyson Degenhart from Mount Spokane, who we played in the state championship. He was probably the toughest matchup, just because he was the most aggressive guy in terms of attacking me and not backing down.
PI: Your high school coach, Jason Kerr, has a rich history of winning at a high level in the state of Washington and he’s coached some pros over the years. I’m curious, what’ve been the most important things you’ve learned from him, over the course of your high school career?
PB: Just hard work and what that means. Bringing the effort every day. He preaches that he shouldn’t have to coach effort and that we should bring that every day.
PI: Describe your game – what are your greatest strengths and biggest areas for improvement? What’s the most underrated aspect of your game?
PB: My strengths are my overall versatility, my passing ability, my playmaking, and just limiting mistakes. I don’t turn it over a lot. Making the right play. Things that I feel I need to work on are probably playing lower – like dribbling and attacking, just having a lower center of gravity. Also, my three-point consistency on my shot. The most underrated part of my game is my athleticism.
PI: That’s an interesting point you bring up about being a low-mistake player. That’s something I’ve always thought about you after walking out of the gym watching you in AAU, at USAB, and at O’Dea. It’s rare to see a 16-year-old play with such a high level of maturity. Can you elaborate on that a little more, from your perspective?
PB: Yeah, I just don’t really ever feel rushed or pressured in a game. I just kind of feel like I’m always able to play at my speed and my pace and I don’t really let anyone speed me up or slow me down. And, yeah – I guess the IQ has just kind of always been there…making the right play and not doing too much. Keeping it simple. Being productive.
PI: Have you always been one of the tallest kids your age, or did you have a big growth spurt?
PB: I had a big growth spurt in middle school. I started 7th grade at 5’11-6’ and by the summer going into 8th grade, I was 6’5. By the start of high school I was 6’6 and then hit another spurt to 6’9 by the end of my freshman year.
PI: You think you’re done?!
PB: I think I might have about an inch, or two left, haha. But I wouldn’t mind being done.
PI: Two years down, two to go. What are your main goals you want to accomplish before your high school career is over?
PB: I want to win two more state championships; I want to take our team to a National Tournament, like Hoophall or City of Palms. I also want to win Gatorade State Player of the Year.
PI: Why do you wear number 5? Is there a story behind that?
PB: When I first started playing little league football that was the number I chose. So it was my first number and I stuck with it. I would’ve got it my freshman year of basketball, but I got the last pick when it came to jersey numbers, so I had to settle with 41. But I got 5 this year and from now on, I’ll hang onto it.
PI: Speaking of football, you were a big time QB and recently hung up the cleats. Talk about that decision – was it difficult? Do you miss it?
PB: Umm, I don’t miss it. It wasn’t really hard to make the choice. Going into my freshman year, I knew it’d be my last year playing football. After I got the offer from UW in October during the football season, I officially made up my mind up that I was going to hang up the cleats. It wasn’t really hard, cause I just kind of stopped enjoying it at a certain point, but yeah, I’m glad I played the years I did, but I wouldn’t say I miss it.
PI: Would you say that playing football has taught you anything to apply on the basketball court?
PB: Yeah, it’s definitely taught me a lot. It taught me a lot about leadership, being a quarterback. Being vocal. Also, it’s helped me with my vision – just seeing the field, seeing the court, always having your eyes up.
PI: How has your experience been with USA Basketball over the past year, or so? You tried out for the U17 team last June and participated in the Junior National Team Minicamp in October – what was that like?
PB: It was great. That was a dream of mine – to be able to at least try out or get invited to a minicamp with USA. So, when I got that first invite to try out, I was pretty excited. As far as the experience – the first time going in June, I could definitely so that I was fatigued. The altitude got to me. I wasn’t prepared for it. I feel like I played pretty good, I just got tired pretty easy. The second time I went in October, I had done some conditioning for two weeks prior leading up to it, and I feel like I played a lot better – especially on offense. I was a lot more vocal, too.
PI: Which players stood out to you the most in Colorado Springs?
PB: Bryan Antoine. I hadn’t really seen him play, at all. Then I saw him at USA in October and he was really good. I feel like he should be ranked higher than he is. I also thought Isaiah Stewart was definitely impressive. He was hard to guard.