Duke basketball star Paolo Banchero makes a scary claim

Duke basketball forward Paolo Banchero (Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)
Duke basketball forward Paolo Banchero (Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports) /

Imagine if Duke basketball freshman Paolo Banchero only improves from here.

If Paolo Banchero is correct, then the Duke basketball program should be in store for one of its most outstanding rookie performers of all time before this season is all said and done.

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The versatile power forward from Seattle has already become the hands-down frontrunner to go No. 1 overall at the 2022 NBA Draft by averaging 18.3 points, 7.6 boards, 2.0 dimes, and 1.4 steals across the impressive 7-0 start of the now-No. 1 Duke Blue Devils. Still, via a tweet on Sunday night, Banchero implied certainty in his mind that his best outings as a collegian are yet to come:

Banchero’s cramps led to the 6-foot-10, 250-pound utter gem missing critical minutes in the second half of Duke’s season-opening 79-71 win versus Kentucky in New York City on Nov. 9 and then again during Friday night’s 84-81 victory over then-No. 1 Gonzaga in Las Vegas.

A Duke basketball blessing in disguise

At the time, the timing of Paolo Banchero’s cramps felt nothing short of, well, untimely. In hindsight, though, the subsequent emergence of teammates amid these absences has perhaps been just what the doctor ordered for this team.

After all, Banchero was Duke’s only surefire superstar entering this 2021-22 campaign. Yet Wendell Moore, Trevor Keels, and Mark Williams have now staked claims to star roles at crucial junctures, sometimes with Banchero back in the locker room receiving an IV.

Against Gonzaga, Banchero dropped 20 points in the first half alone.

But primarily due to his cramps after the break, the 19-year-old scored only one point the rest of the way. No worries, for Moore & Co. took care of all the necessary business in top-dog fashion.

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So let’s assume Banchero’s tweet proves prophetic in terms of his eliminating the cramping issue and beginning to display the feature film to follow up his so-called “preview” thus far. In that case, it would seem safe to say that this Duke basketball collection could remain atop the AP Top 25 for quite some time.