Duke basketball: Paolo Banchero has coming out party for USA Basketball

Duke basketball forward Paolo Banchero (Photo by SHERWIN VARDELEON/AFP via Getty Images)
Duke basketball forward Paolo Banchero (Photo by SHERWIN VARDELEON/AFP via Getty Images) /

Duke basketball forward Paolo Banchero has broken out for Team USA. 

There was a lot of controversy around Paolo Banchero‘s decision to play for Team USA this summer in the FIBA World Cup over Team Italy but the former Duke basketball standout just had his breakout moment of the tournament.

Coming off the bench, Banchero exploded for a team-high 21 points against New Zealand in the second victory of the group stage for the Americans.

The reigning NBA Rookie of the Year shot 8-for-10 from the field and made both of his 3-point attempts as he also chipped in 3-of-5 free throws with four rebounds, an assist, and four blocks in just 19 minutes of action.

Banchero has surprised many with his defense throughout the exhibitions and World Cup matches for USA Basketball after averaging 20.0 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game in his rookie season for the Orlando Magic.

“This is what I’ve been waiting for,” Banchero said after the game.

“We played five exhibition games just to get ready for this, and so when you get to this tournament, you know it’s go time. You’ve gotta win every game to have a chance.”

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Team USA does not have its typical superstar roster and the group is a little undersized, compared to other countries, and it has been Banchero who has thrived in a small-ball center role.

“I just wanted to come out and be live soon as I got in the game, and that’s what I tried to do.”

Duke basketball standout ready to continue impressive run on national stage

The No. 1 overall pick of the 2022 NBA Draft had eight points, three rebounds, and an assist in the opening game of the tournament against Greece.

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Paolo Banchero played in all five of the USA’s showcase games leading up to the tournament as he led the team by shooting 71-percent from the field, he only averaged 5.2 points and 12.8 minutes per contest.

Banchero and Team USA have one game remaining in Group C play against Jordan on Wednesday, August 30 (4:30a.m. ET, ESPN2) before beginning its run to reclaim the country’s throne as the top of the basketball world in the knockout stages.

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