5-Star PF Paolo Banchero Commits to Duke over Arizona, Kentucky, More

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistAugust 20, 2020

FORT MYERS, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 19:  Paolo Banchero #5 of O’Dea High School dribbles with the ball against Blanche Ely High School during the City of Palms Classic Day 2 at Suncoast Credit Union Arena on December 19, 2019 in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Highly touted power forward Paolo Banchero committed to the Duke Blue Devils on Thursday.

Banchero is the No. 1 power forward and No. 3 player overall in the 2021 recruiting class, per 247Sports' composite rankings. He chose Duke over fellow finalists Arizona, Gonzaga, Tennessee and Washington.

The Seattle native won the Gatorade Washington Boys Basketball Player of the Year award in March after averaging 22.6 points, 11.0 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game for O'Dea High School.

O'Dea was the 3A state champion in 2018-19 and fell short of its repeat bid in the title game, losing to Garfield High School. Banchero had 15 points on 5-of-13 shooting in the 69-44 loss but was still a first-team finisher for the 3A all-tournament team.

He put on a show in the semifinals, nearly dropping a triple-double:

Aaron Gray, a two-time first-team All-Big East center at Pittsburgh, worked with Banchero at USA Basketball's junior national team minicamp in July 2019.

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Gray called him a "coach's dream" in an interview with CBSSports.com's Gary Parrish:

"His willingness to want to improve, when he's already at such a high-level, is impressive to a guy like me. He's got a cool and calm demeanor. But when he brings out that aggressive side, that mean side, man, the sky's the limit. His skillset is great. He's a great worker. So there really isn't anything negative I can say about him."

After scouting Banchero in March 2019, 247Sports' Josh Gerson compared him to Charlotte Hornets forward P.J. Washington. 

In two years at Kentucky, Washington averaged 12.9 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.0 block. He added a three-pointer to his repertoire as a sophomore, hitting 42.3 percent of his shots from beyond the arc.

Banchero's athleticism immediately jumps out. He's already throwing down highlight-reel dunks and looking like a man among boys.

His opponents won't be so physically overmatched in college, but his strength and explosion will help him make an immediate impact on the glass and as an inside scorer.

Banchero will be even more difficult to stop if he becomes a consistent threat from long range.