On Thursday (23 June 2022), that is exactly what happened, as Orlando Magic selected the 19-year-old power forward first overall at the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn.
Banchero headed the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC)’s Duke University’s Blue Devils to the final four in his one year at the college before turning pro, and was being talked about as a possible top three selection.
Jabari Smith Jr of Auburn had been the favorite for the number one pick. He eventually went third to the Houston Rockets.
Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren was also predicted to be selected ahead of Banchero, and went second pick to Oklahoma City Thunder.
Orlando had the first pick. In the previous season, they finished with a 22-60 record, the second worst in the NBA, while the 2021-22 championship was won by Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors – their fourth title in eight years.
The Magic felt Banchero was the man they needed for their rebuild, despite having no workouts with the player ahead of the draft.
An Italian International honored of mixed heritage.
Born in Seattle, Washington, on 12th November 2002, Paolo Banchero is an Italian-American who received Italian citizenship in 2020 and was selected for the Italy squad for the EuroBasket 2022 qualifiers, telling FIBA, “Italy gave me a chance I couldn’t refuse, to play at the senior level.
Banchero’s great-grandfather was the son of Italian immigrants to the U.S., making him eligible for the national team.
“I’m proud to wear the Azzurri jersey,” he added, “I will never forget when I received it for the first time. It is framed in my room. I’m proud to be playing for Italy, and proud about the heritage of my family.”
His mother played professional women’s basketball in Europe and Taiwan under her maiden name Rhonda Smith. The Sacramento Monarchs drafted her into the WNBA, played for Seattle Reign and Portland Power in the American Basketball League (ABL), and represented the USA internationally with seven years in FIBA affiliated competitions worldwide.
She then became a coach, winning a state championship, which was one of young Paolo’s fondest memories growing up.
Picking Banchero first stunned many NBA fans, and the player himself seemed surprised.
“I don’t even know what to say. I can’t believe what just happened, honestly,” he said after being selected.
“I plan on bringing everything I have to Orlando.”
He then, fondly shared a tweet in the social media that Quote “Orlando Let’s Work”.
So far, the 2022 draft is seen as one of the most talented in recent years.