Stardom for an NBA basketball player usually starts early. They are highly touted athletes from AAU to high school, but in the case of Paolo Banchero it was the opposite.
He didn’t experience any of it until he started his college career at Duke.
Banchero sat with his fellow Orlando Magic teammate R.J. Hampton, on his new podcast with FUBO Sports Network, to explain his personal stories from Duke to being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.
“It was way different. In high school you’re highly ranked but everyone has known you since you grew up [in that town] there, so no one looks at you as a big superstar,” said Banchero, a McDonald’s All-American from O’Dea High School in Seattle, via the podcast. “I was able to go to the mall, go out to eat anywhere and not get bothered. But going to Duke it was something totally different.”
The 6-foot-10, 250-pound rookie experienced a culture shock when he stepped on campus in Durham, N.C. Banchero received celebrity treatment that most prospects get when they’re 16 or 17 years old.
“Going to Duke, they treated you like royalty if you played on the basketball team,” he said. “It took a lot of getting used to, but it helped me prepare for the NBA. I love Duke, but sometimes it felt like I was a zoo animal.”
Banchero had to deal with other students secretly recording him in class and having strangers knock on the door of his dorm on a random Sunday morning. The transition took Banchero by surprise early on, but the attention he’s starting to receive with the Magic feels familiar.
The Magic surprisingly selected Banchero after he was projected to go No. 3, after Auburn forward Jabari Smith (Houston Rockets), and Gonzaga center Chet Holmgren (Oklahoma City Thunder).
He became the fourth No. 1 pick in franchise history. He also became the fourth No. 1 to score 20-plus points in his first three NBA games.
But how did this surprise come about?
The answer was the Magic’s strategy.
“That was a wild week. During the whole draft process, I’m thinking I’m going to Houston. I visited OKC and Houston, I didn’t even visit Orlando,” Banchero said. “It was funny because that’s when every report was saying the Magic wasn’t really considering me, but when I finally talked to the Magic during draft week, they told me that was never the case and the report was basically false.”
Banchero then heard his name called from NBA commissioner Adam Silver on draft night. He was the top choice. The Magic’s draft secrecy was so close to the vest that Banchero and his family didn’t know about their intentions until they read subtitles on a television screen.
“I was backstage 30 miutes before the draft and the TV was muted, but it had subtitles. That’s when I saw my picture on there and it said I was heavily considered by the Magic,” Banchero said. “I then tapped my parents and everyone was shocked, my heart started racing.”
With the Magic starting 0-4, the rookie is still showing promise and the intangibles the organization needs for long-term success. They believe he’s a winner and they’ve chosen the right guy.