Ranking the Contenders: Paolo Banchero
There were whispers this time last year that Paolo Banchero could be leaning toward reclassifying into the 2020 class. instead, he decided to remain in his original 2021 class which has only made him that much more valuable as a priority recruit.
Banchero has been a heavily discussed name and top target nationally since stepping foot onto the Nike EYBL circuit as a rising sophomore. Many assumed that the local UW program was the heavy favorite, thanks to the fact his mother and father both played a varsity sport for the Pac-12 school. That sentiment changed quickly when he voiced his intent on searching the country for the best landing spot possible.
Banchero is hoping to take five official visits in the fall before a signing in November, but that could be pushed back if on-campus recruiting is barred beyond its current date of Aug. 31. In the meantime, he will remain the top target for his six finalists.
2022 Rankings: Top 75
Banchero has already taken an official visit to the blueblood program as he joined the 2020 class’ top-rated prospect, Cade Cunningham, in Lexington last fall. Immediately after, there was a chance that Kentucky was on the precipice of landing both Banchero and Cunningham. By now we know that Cunningham went with Oklahoma State, but the Wildcats are definitely a strong suitor for Banchero. They just missed on McDaniels, but do have a decent connection with the Pacific Northwest, thanks to their past work with Terrence Jones and Kyle Wiltjer. There might not be a clear-cut leader, but if there was going to be one, it would be the Wildcats.
The latest player to pit Duke and Kentucky in a battle for a five-star prospect, Banchero has also already taken an official visit to Durham and the fit and need for someone in his mold cannot be understated. The Blue Devils will likely see Matthew Hurt, Jalen Johnson and Patrick Tape depart after the season, while Mark Williams could also be a one-and-done player. Duke has not recruited the West Coast a whole lot until recently, with Cassius Stanley being its latest get from the West. Banchero, a top-three prospect, has received countless Carlos Boozer comparisons, and Coach K would love to have another player of that caliber while also defeating the West Coast powers and Duke's fiercest recruiting rival, Kentucky, for his services.
If any non-blueblood has a chance to swipe in and steal Banchero, it might not be Washington, but rather Tennessee. Kennedy Chandler, a five-star lead guard that has often discussed playing with Banchero in college, compiled a college list that also includes Duke and Kentucky. While many presume that Chandler will select one of the Goliaths of the sport, it may be Tennessee that has the lead with the nation’s top-rated lead guard. If Chandler were to side with UT, would it be enough to swing Banchero the Vols' way? The Seattle native was blown away by his official visit to Knoxville last year, and he has developed a strong relationship with assistant coach Kim English. Banchero also remains enamored with the developmental work of Rick Barnes and his staff.
Banchero's mother is one of the best women’s basketball players in school history, while his father had his own respected career on the UW football field. Plenty of other family members and friends have attended the nearby institution. Is it enough to keep Banchero home for college? The Huskies were one of the few schools that made his final list that has not hosted him for an official visit, although he has visited the Seattle-based campus a number of times. Mike Hopkins has already shown that he can win the biggest recruiting battles, but Banchero may be his most difficult one yet. Banchero has shown little favoritism towards his parents’ alma mater, but the ongoing pandemic may make him rethink going far away for college.
Gonzaga is no longer just a major recruiting outfit internationally. The Zags have also begun to enroll the best domestic talent, too. They are involved for five-star center Chet Holmgren, too, and there is a chance - though very, very slim - that both Holmgren and Banchero pick the WCC unit. Holmgren might be the likelier of the two, but Banchero has been adamant about playing next to a top-tier lead guard in college, and while Jalen Suggs has left for the NBA the fact that Gonzaga landed Florida standout Andrew Nembhard via transfer should only help its cause. Banchero has already taken an official visit to Gonzaga and while many believe if he stays in state, it would be in favor of UW, Gonzaga remains in the fight.
Arizona has a whole lot of ground to make up with Banchero, but no one has made greater traction with him this offseason than the Wildcats. They had not offered before the quarantine, but they still found a way to make his final six, overtaking a number of other programs that had invested years into his recruitment and a few others that Banchero had already officially visited. Sean Miller’s recent hiring of Jason Terry has helped the Wildcats’ pursuit, and Banchero has said that he would like to take an official visit to Arizona before committing. Miller and his staff have a lot more work to do if they want to have a chance, but they have gained some momentum in the race for his services.