Two-time All-Star calls Duke basketball signee ‘best HS player’

Duke basketball freshman Paolo Banchero (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Duke basketball freshman Paolo Banchero (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Will Duke basketball welcome its fourth Naismith High School Trophy winner?

O’Dea (Wash.) senior Paolo Banchero is a five-star bruiser in the paint with deft perimeter skills to boot. At No. 3 on the 247Sports 2021 Composite, the 6-foot-9, 235-pound power forward is set to accompany Archbishop Stepinac (N.Y.) senior small forward AJ Griffin (No. 7) in giving the Duke basketball program at least two of the nation’s premier five-star freshmen next season.

And as of this week, Banchero is one of five finalists for the Naismith High School Trophy alongside Ypsi Prep (Mich.) junior forward Emoni Bates, Coronado (Nev.) senior guard Jaden Hardy, Minnehaha (Minn.) senior center Chet Holmgren, and Sandy Creek (Ga.) senior forward Jabari Smith Jr.

Per a tweet from two-time NBA All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas following the announcement of the remaining Naismith contenders, Banchero deserves to come out on top. Also, while obviously biased due to his own Washington roots and time spent training with Banchero, Thomas made clear his thoughts on who should enjoy top-shelf pro success the soonest:

More honors and praise for the Duke basketball signee

Because of his state’s policies regarding COVID-19 precautions, Paolo Banchero has seen limited action this season, thus far having to travel outside of Washington to see any at all.

But judging from the highlights the Seattle native has recently provided for BFL Prep, there’s no question he’s been emphatically sensational:

Across four outings the first week of February, Banchero averaged 31.0 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 2.3 assists against purely high-level prospects. In doing so, the 18-year-old earned the Player of the Week tag and the following assessment from The Grind Session at The Bubble in Phoenix:

“Paolo took The Grind Session by storm in his first bubble appearance of the season. He can score from all levels and has all the attributes of a future pro.”

As for his more immediate future, we’ll know on March 10 if Paolo Banchero joins Shane Battier (1997), Austin Rivers (2011), and RJ Barrett (2018) as the only Blue Devils to take home the Naismith High School Trophy since the award’s inception in 1987.

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