Before Paolo Banchero was selected first-overall by the Orlando Magic in the 2022 NBA draft, he kicked off his college career as a freshman at Duke. Here's what you need to know.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski made a 13th Final Four appearance in his final season, one season after Duke went 13-11 and missed the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1995. Freshman forward Paolo Banchero was a major reason why the Blue Devils made such a turnaround and went on such a deep run in the tournament. The 2021-22 Blue Devils both started and finished the season ranked No. 9 in the AP poll, peaking at No. 1 in the country, while the versatile, 6-foot-10 forward led the team in scoring and rebounding.
Here's everything you need to know about Paolo Banchero's college career at Duke.
The vitals for Paolo Banchero
Weight: 250 pounds
Years active: 2021-22
NCAA tournament record: 4-1
Career averages: 17.2 points per game, 7.8 rebounds per game, 47.8% shooting
How tall is Paolo Banchero?
Banchero was listed at 6-foot-10 as a freshman at Duke, as he played the "four" alongside Duke's starting center Mark Williams, who was listed at 7-foot-1.
What kind of player was Banchero in high school?
According to Banchero's 247Sports recruiting profile, he was ranked as the No. 2 player in the country in the 2021 high school graduating class, behind only Chet Holmgren, who attended Gonzaga. He had reported scholarship offers from a long list of schools including Alabama, Baylor, Gonzaga, Kentucky, Memphis, Michigan, North Carolina, Southern California and Tennessee, among others.
As a junior at O'Dea High School in Seattle, Wash., Banchero averaged 22.6 points, 11.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.6 blocks per game, which earned him Washington Boys Basketball Gatorade Player of the Year and MaxPreps Junior Player of the Year honors.
247Sports National Recruiting Analyst Josh Gershon compared the McDonald's All-American to Charlotte Hornets forward and former Kentucky Wildcat PJ Washington.
What was Paolo Banchero's record in college?
Duke went 32-7 in the 2021-22 season, including 16-4 in the ACC's regular-season play and 4-1 in the NCAA tournament.
What was Paolo Banchero's offensive game like?
At 6-foot-10 and 250 pounds, Banchero had a polished offensive game for a true freshman, with the ability to operate on the perimeter (3.3 3-point attempts per game, 33.8 percent 3-point shooting), on the block or in the mid-range, where he showed patience, creativity and solid footwork to maneuver around defenders. Some observers compared him to freshman-year Carmelo Anthony at Syracuse, given Banchero's ability to use his pivot foot and hit turnaround, 2-point jumpers.
Given his physical stature and his ability to act as a ball-handler on the perimeter, Banchero could often either use his physicality against smaller opponents or draw similarly sized defenders away from the basket.
You can watch Banchero's highlights from the 2022 NCAA Tournament below.
What were some of Paolo Banchero's best games?
Here are some of Banchero's best performances in college:
Nov. 9, 2021 | Duke 79, Kentucky 71
In Banchero's college debut, which came against another blue blood in Kentucky in the Champions Classic, the freshman scored 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting and 8-of-9 free throw shooting, to go along with seven rebounds and two steals in an eight-point win. Duke would go on to start the season 7-0.
Nov. 26, 2021 | Duke 84, Gonzaga 81
Playing No. 1 Gonzaga and 7-foot freshman Chet Holmgren, the only player in Banchero's graduating class who was ranked higher than him, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings, Duke pulled off a narrow victory behind Banchero's 21 points, five rebounds and two assists. He made three 3-pointers, which was his most to date and the second-highest single-game total of his freshman season.
March 11, 2022 (ACC tournament) | Duke 80, Miami 76
In the semifinals of the ACC tournament, Banchero posted his highest single-game field-goal percentage of the season of 80 percent. He made eight of his nine 2-point attempts, and missed his only 3-pointer, to finish the game with 18 points, 11 rebounds (four on the offensive end) and four assists, as he helped send the Blue Devils to the ACC tournament championship game.
March 20, 2022 (NCAA tournament) | No. 2 seed Duke 85, No. 7 seed Michigan State 76
In a tightly contested second-round game that Michigan State led by five late in the second half, Banchero helped Duke advance to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament with a 19-point, seven-rebound, four-assist performance in 38 minutes. He made six of his nine attempts inside the arc and two of his five 3-point attempts.
March 24, 2022 (NCAA tournament) | No. 2 seed Duke 78, No. 3 seed Texas Tech 73
Playing against the No. 1 defense in the country in the Sweet 16, Banchero scored 22 points, his highest total in five NCAA tournament games, on an efficient 7-of-12 shooting, including a 3-of-4 performance from 3-point range. He also had four rebounds, four assists and three steals. The Blue Devils won by five to advance to the Elite Eight.
What awards did Paolo Banchero win in college?
Here are some of the awards and distinctions that Banchero earned at Duke:
- 2022 consensus second-team All-American
- ACC Freshman of the Year
- First-team All-ACC
- ACC All-Freshman Team
- First-team All-ACC tournament
- NCAA West Region Most Outstanding Player
- NCAA West Region All-Tournament Team
- Wooden Award national ballot
- Karl Malone Award finalist
- NABC first-team All-District 2
- USBWA All-District III
- Preseason ACC Player of the Year
- Preseason Freshman of the Year
- NABC preseason watch list
- Naismith Award preseason watch list
- Wooden Award preseason watch list
What records did Paolo Banchero set in college and where does he rank among historical greats?
Paolo Banchero set the following records and ranks highly on numerous all-time lists:
- 1st among true freshmen in the 2021-22 season in scoring: 17.2 points per game
- 5th among true freshmen in the 2021-22 season in field-goal percentage: 47.8 percent
- 6th among true freshmen in the 2021-22 season in rebounding: 7.8 rebounds per game
- 1st among power-conference true freshmen in the 2021-22 season in double-doubles: 12 double-doubles
- 1st among power-conference true freshmen in the 2021-22 season in 20-plus point games: 15 games
If you take Banchero's per-game averages from the 2021-22 season and round down — 17 points, seven rebounds and three assists per game — and search on Sports Reference for players who have posted those averages, there have been 108 individual seasons by players who have produced those averages since the 1992-93 season, or an average of 3.6 per year. The list of players who have averaged 17, seven and three during that span include Penny Hardaway's junior season at Memphis, Jamal Mashburn's junior season at Kentucky, Tim Duncan's senior season at Wake Forest, David West's senior season at Xavier, R.J. Barrett's freshman season at Duke and Ben Simmons' freshman season at LSU.
What did people say about Paolo Banchero?
The Herald-Sun's Jeremiah Holloway, after Duke beat Winston-Salem State in a preseason exhibition: "Look for the Blue Devils to take advantage of their size this season, while playing primarily through Banchero. The preseason player of the year, Banchero's offensive versatility will be difficult to match up against one-on-one."
The Lexington Herald-Leader's Mark Story, after Duke beat Kentucky: "Kentucky made ardent recruiting pushes for Paolo Banchero and Trevor Keels, but lost out on each to Mike Krzyzewski. On Tuesday night, John Calipari and the Wildcats got an emphatic look at what they missed. ... One of the most-hyped players entering college basketball in 2021-22, the 6-10, 250-pound Banchero lived up to every bit of his hype. A Seattle product, Banchero hit seven of 11 shots, eight of nine foul shots and finished with 22 points and seven rebounds."
The Spokesman-Review's Jim Meehan, after Duke beat Gonzaga: "Most of Friday's pregame hype centered on the matchup of freshman standouts Chet Holmgren of Gonzaga and Paolo Banchero of Duke. Both have been projected at or near the top of most NBA mock drafts. Banchero looked NBA ready with one of the most dominant halves against the Zags in years. The 6-foot-10 freshman from Seattle O'Dea High torched Gonzaga for 20 points, operating smoothly in the lane and beyond the 3-point arc."
Gonzaga coach Mark Few (courtesy of The Spokesman-Review): "Paolo was terrific how he came out and was just a handful."
The News & Observer's Luke DeCock: "Billed as Duke's biggest recruit since Zion Williamson and a potential No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, Banchero has been everything promised. Banchero's advanced blend of power and polish helped the Blue Devils beat Kentucky in the Madison Square Garden opener and, briefly, lifted them to the No. 1 ranking."
Clemson coach Brad Brownell (courtesy of The Herald-Sun): "He's a handful. He makes all kinds of shots. He had a couple threes. He drives it in there. He posts you. He's a three-level scorer, obviously, at almost 20 points a game. I mean, it's a tough cover."
The News & Observer's Justin Pelletier in late January 2022: "The Blue Devils will go as far as their star freshman, Paolo Banchero, will take them. That much was cemented this past week during a mundane (and closer-than-it-should-have-been) win over Clemson. Banchero was a force late against the Tigers, and after the game he showed some of that rare freshman leadership, describing a scene during a team timeout. During the timeout, Banchero said, there was discussion of how Duke had lost 76-74 to Miami on Jan. 8 and 79-78 in overtime at Florida State on Jan. 18."
The Herald-Sun's Alex Zietlow: "Paolo Banchero is at the forefront of an important moment for college athletes. The Duke freshman star will be featured in NBA 2K22's next multiplayer season, according to an announcement from 2K Sports."
Former Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski to Banchero, after Duke beat Michigan State in the second round of the 2022 NCAA tournament (courtesy of the USA Today Network): "You were terrific."
USA Today Network's David Thompson at the 2022 Men's Final Four: "Paolo Banchero has learned to live with his burgeoning fame and the intense highs and lows that followed him throughout his only season in college basketball. He's come a long way since November when the Duke freshman geeked out on social media after Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James mentioned his college debut against Kentucky on an Instagram story. In a few months, they'll be colleagues."
Paolo Banchero quotes
After Duke beat Winston-Salem State in a preseason exhibition (courtesy of The Herald-Sun): "We wanted to come out and jump on them early. Keep that intensity up the whole time. We did that, moved the ball well, shared the ball well. It was fun."
After Duke beat Kentucky in the Champions Classic (courtesy of the Lexington Herald-Leader): "We felt we had a chance to make a statement with this game."
After making two baskets in the final two minutes for a two-point win over Clemson (courtesy of The Herald-Sun): "It was winning time."
On a timeout during Duke's win against Clemson (courtesy of The News & Observer): "We were like, 'There's no way we're losing. We know what's happened the past two games against Miami and Florida State. That was definitely said, you know, we're not losing. Make the right plays. Don't make mistakes, you know, take care of the ball."
After Duke beat Michigan State in the 2022 NCAA Tournament (courtesy of the USA Today Network): "When you are out there, you don't even — it's not like you're even thinking. You're just playing to win, and you're playing extremely hard. So, when you are doing that are you are not afraid of the moment as a team, you're going to do stuff like that."