While cool to see his photo in a national publication, Paolo Banchero said there’s no truth to the story. He’s not leaving O’Dea to play basketball with a star-studded academy team in California.
The Los Angeles Daily News reported last week that NBA All-Stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade plan to enroll their sons at powerhouse Sierra Canyon School, which in March won its second consecutive California Interscholastic Federation Open Division state championship. The story said the school “could potentially add” Banchero along with Bronny James, an incoming freshman, and Zaire Wade, a senior transfer from Florida.
Rumors spread, landing Banchero’s face in the USA Today’s sports section.
“My dad showed it to me,” said Banchero, a 6-foot-9 sophomore, via text message. “Honestly, it was kinda cool seeing my picture in the USA Today.”
Banchero’s parents were clear their eldest of three children isn’t transferring. Banchero is a five-star prospect for the Class of 2021 with multiple college offers, including Washington. He averaged 18.2 points and 10.3 rebounds per game in leading O’Dea to the Class 3A boys basketball state championship in March.
The family said they’ve been approached multiple times by Sierra Canyon and other out-of-state private schools wanting Banchero to transfer to play for them. For the Trailblazers, Banchero could help fill a void left by Duke-bound Cassius Stanley and Vanderbilt commits K.J. Martin (Kenyon Martin’s son) and Scotty Pippen Jr.
Banchero hasn’t played with or against Bronny or Zaire, but he knows of both through Bronny’s AAU coach Joseph Orukotan of North Coast Blue Chips in Ohio. Banchero has played for Seattle Rotary since he first learned how to dribble. He averaged 21.8 points and 11.2 rebounds per game so far this AAU season.
“We feel like his progress is just fine, and we get a lot of what people are seeking right here in the Metro League,” said Banchero’s mother Rhonda. She played hoops for Franklin High, UW and professionally in the U.S. and Greece.
“And Rotary has a respected and longstanding reputation in the AAU world,” Rhonda continued. “I don’t know where else you could go and be bigger. It’s not necessary (and) is just not something we would do. I can never say never, because I don’t know, but I don’t see where that would ever work.”
Paolo is preparing for the official beginning of his recruitment as college coaches are able to make contact starting June 15. Memphis is the most recent offer while Banchero is hearing some of the “blue blood” schools — Duke, Kentucky, Kansas and North Carolina — may be interested in him.
Banchero is using this summer’s AAU circuit to work on his three-point shooting, ball-handling and getting stronger.
“It is enticing/tempting for sure,” Banchero said via text about playing with Bronny and Zaire. “I played really well in the spring, so hopefully I got on a lot of (college) schools’ radar. … I’m open to any and every school that recruits me. No favorites!”