He might be just 18 years old, but Duke forward Paolo Banchero already has a star-studded list of seasoned athletes as fans.
The freshman made his debut for Duke on Tuesday night in the Blue Devils' first game of the 2021-22 college basketball season. Banchero had 22 points, 7 rebounds and 2 steals in a 79-71 win over No.10 Kentucky. He is currently the No. 2 prospect in ESPN's top 100 recruits for the 2022 NBA Draft.
According to ESPN's Jeff Borzello, what makes Banchero so special is that he "can handle the ball, hit face-up jumpers from the top of the key and score around the basket. He also absorbs contact consistently, getting to the free throw line with regularity."
LeBron James is already paying attention to Banchero's play, and he will have more chances to see the freshman in big-time matchups. The Blue Devils host No. 1 Gonzaga and travel to face No. 17 Ohio State in November.
James posted a photo on his Instagram story from the photoshoot Banchero did for SLAM Magazine. In the picture, Banchero is tying his blue and white LeBron 11 sneakers. What's even more cool is Banchero's excitement over James' Instagram shoutout.
no way bron put me on tha story man sorry but y'all gotta let me be a fan for a second 😭 that's my goat fr 🤞🏽— Paolo Banchero🇮🇹 (@Pp_doesit) November 10, 2021
Former NBA All-Star Isaiah Thomas couldn't help but point out that Washington produces star-caliber hoopers, like himself. Banchero was born and went to high school in Seattle.
So when @Pp_doesit is the #1 pick in next years draft what will they say about our state then?? Lol we just keep producing!!!— Isaiah Thomas (@isaiahthomas) November 10, 2021
Charlotte Hornets star Miles Bridges also gave Banchero props, a few days after Banchero tweeted how "cold" Bridges is.
Paolo Banchero got game 🔥🔥 https://t.co/wKs0qUuOhs— Miles Bridges (@MilesBridges) November 10, 2021
Speaking of SLAM Magazine, Banchero was surprised less than 24 hours after his college debut by Jon Scheyer, the assistant head coach of Duke, wearing a shirt with Banchero's cover on it.
About 15 hours after P5 showed out vs Kentucky...— Duke Men's Basketball (@DukeMBB) November 10, 2021
GOT HIM! 😅🤝💪👀 @SLAMonline @Pp_doesit @JonScheyer lol pic.twitter.com/koRAAiwSPt
The Banchero bandwagon is gaining a lot of passengers, and the freshman hopes he can continue to play up to expectations as the Blue Devils start a six-game homestand Friday against Army.