SEATTLE (BVM) — It’s not often that the Gatorade Washington Boys Basketball Player of the Year isn’t a senior. For just the fourth time since the turn of the millennium, a junior has taken home the state’s highest hardwood honor.
O’Dea forward Paolo Banchero was recognized as the Gatorade State Player of the Year for the 2019-20 boys basketball season after posting 22.6 points, 11 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.6 blocks per game and leading the Fighting Irish to a 23-6 record en route to a WIAA Class 3A state championship appearance.
While Banchero’s O’Dea team was unable to win back-to-back state championships, he’ll be determined to return to the title game as a senior. If he continues at this pace, Banchero is bound to accrue even more individual hardware. For the 2019-20 season, the 6-foot-9 forward was also honored as a first team all-state selection, the Seattle Times Player of the Year, the Metro League MVP and earned more national recognition as MaxPreps’ Junior Player of the Year.
“Banchero isn’t showy, he just takes care of business,” said Bainbridge head coach Steve Haizlip in a Gatorade press release. “It’s crazy to see his skillset at that size. He handles the ball like a point guard, he can really shoot, and the way he moves is incredible. He’s an amazing talent.”
Currently testing the waters before making a college commitment, Banchero has himself positioned to play wherever he prefers. As the nation’s No. 4 recruit, according to ESPN’s top 60 rankings for the Class of 2021, Banchero has been courted by the country’s best basketball programs.
On April 29, Banchero announced his short list on Twitter for where he’d like to take his talents to at the next level. The six finalists include: Kentucky, Washington, Gonzaga, Arizona, Tennessee and Duke.
— Paolo Banchero🇮🇹 (@Pp_doesit) April 29, 2020
The allure of staying in Seattle might push Washington to the top of this list, but perennial power Duke has Banchero’s attention. The opportunity to play on national TV every game, contend for a national championship and improve your possibility of being an NBA Draft pick certainly bode well for the Blue Devils who have produced the last three NABC National Freshman of the Year winners.
“Just allowing me to be a basketball player,” said Banchero to Rivals of Duke’s recruiting pitch. “One thing that they have stressed is that you will have the ball in your hands a lot, especially as a player like me that can pass and all that stuff. The chance to compete for a national championship, too, to have the chance to compete for a conference and national championship is their pitch.”
As he takes his time to make a decision on where he’ll play college ball, Banchero will attempt to go out on top next season at O’Dea. A second state championship title for the forward is within reach. And if he becomes a repeat winner of the Gatorade Washington Boys Basketball Player of the Year, he’d be just the second back-to-back recipient in state history.
BVM Sports’ Mike Cianciolo contributed to this article.