Hype is building for Duke freshman phenom Paolo Banchero
Paolo Banchero isn’t a household name yet, but he might be soon.
Duke’s 2021-22 season tips off on Nov. 9 vs. Kentucky. It’s the first game of Mike Krzyzewski’s final season. The Blue Devils a chance to be one of the nation’s best — but their ceiling might depend on Banchero, a 5-star freshman forward who has a chance to go No. 1 overall in the 2022 NBA Draft.
The early returns are promising.
Banchero dropped a team-high 21 points and grabbed 9 rebounds in an exhibition vs. Winston Salem-State on Saturday. Level of competition aside, Banchero showed off a combination of fluidity and athleticism that’s exceptionally rare at his size.
Here’s a few of his highlights from the game:
21-point debut for Paolo Banchero in Duke's first exhibition game. Awfully fluid facing up for 6-10, 250. Flashes of change of direction, power finishes, shooting range. pic.twitter.com/PBlkySlR87
— Jonathan Wasserman (@NBADraftWass) October 31, 2021
Banchero is the No. 2 overall player in the class of 2021, according to 247Sports Composite rankings. He’s expected to compete with Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren and Memphis Jalen Duren for the top spot in next summer’s NBA Draft.
Duke is at No. 10 in KenPom.com’s preseason rankings. But if Banchero develops into one of the nation’s best players by the end of the season, this squad might have a significantly higher ceiling.
The Blue Devils haven’t made a Final Four run since winning the National Championship in 2015. Could Banchero change that? Will fellow 5-star wing Adrian Griffin help push them over the edge? What about Mark Williams? Trevor Keels? Jeremy Roach? All the pieces seem to fit.
“It’s almost like you don’t have positions out there,” Banchero told reporters after Duke’s exhibition game on Saturday. “Anyone brings it up, we don’t really have a set point guard. Everybody has a good feel for the game so we’re just out there playing freely.”
It’s not just Duke fans who are excited about Banchero’s upcoming season. ESPN recently ranked him as the top newcomer in all of college basketball. CBS’s Matt Norlander has Banchero as the top player in the entire country.
Dick Vitale even gave Banchero a shoutout during Duke’s exhibition game on Saturday.
— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) October 30, 2021
He has the hype, talent and supporting cast to take college basketball by storm. Oh, and he’s got a national stage, too — Duke will open its season vs. Kentucky at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.
Tip off is at 9:30 p.m. ET on Nov. 9.