Who is Paolo Banchero? Italian-American picked first by Orlando Magic in 2022 NBA Draft 2022 - Top things to know

The 19-year-old from Duke seen as a shock at number one pick on a night of surprises. Here's why the selection made waves in Italy.

By James Pratt
Picture by 2022 Getty Images

There's little doubt Paolo Banchero has the talent to play top level men's basketball in the NBA, but very few analysts would have predicted his name would be the first picked in the 2022 draft.

On Thursday (23 June 2022), that's exactly what happened, as Orlando Magic selected the 19-year-old power forward first overall at the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn.

Banchero led the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC)'s Duke University's Blue Devils to the final four in his one year at the college before turning pro, and was being talked about as a possible top three selection.

Jabari Smith Jr of Auburn had been the favourite for the number one pick. He eventually went third to the Houston Rockets.

Gonzaga's Chet Holmgren was also predicted to be selected ahead of Banchero, and went second pick to Oklahoma City Thunder.

Orlando had the first pick. In the previous season they finished with a 22-60 record, the second-worst in the NBA, while the 2021-22 championship was won by Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors - their fourth title in eight years.

The Magic felt Banchero was the man they needed for their rebuild, despite having no workouts with the player ahead of the draft.

An Italian international proud of mixed heritage

Born in Seattle, Washington, on 12th November 2002, Paolo Banchero is an Italian-American who received Italian citizenship in 2020 and was selected for the Italy squad for the EuroBasket 2022 qualifiers, telling FIBA, "Italy gave me a chance I couldn't refuse, to play at the senior level.

Banchero's great-grandfather was the son of Italian immigrants to the U.S., making him eligible for the national team.

"I'm proud to wear the Azzurri jersey," he added, "I will never forget when I received it for the first time. It is framed in my room. I'm proud to be playing for Italy, and proud about the heritage of my family."

His mother played professional women's basketball in Europe and Taiwan under her maiden name Rhonda Smith. She was drafted into the WNBA by the Sacramento Monarchs, played for Seattle Reign and Portland Power in the American Basketball League (ABL), and represented the USA internationally with seven years in FIBA affiliated competitions worldwide.

She then became a coach, winning a state championship, which was one of young Paolo's fondest memories growing up.

Banchero reacts to number one pick for Magic

Picking Banchero first stunned many NBA fans, and the player himself seemed surprised.

“I don’t even know what to say. I can’t believe what just happened, honestly,” he said after being selected.

“I plan on bringing everything I have to Orlando.”

An active user of social media, he posted a simple reaction on twitter after the 2022 draft: "Orlando LETS WORK"

The 2022 draft is seen as one of the most talented in recent years. Here are the top first round picks.

Top 15 picks in 2022 NBA draft first round

1) Paolo Banchero, PF, picked by Orlando Magic

2) Chet Holmgren, C/PF, picked by Oklahoma City Thunder

3) Jabari Smith Jr, PF, picked by Houston Rockets

4) Keegan Murray, PF, picked by Sacramento Kings

5) Jaden Ivey, SG, picked by Detroit Pistons

6) Bennedict Mathurin, SF, picked by Indiana Pacers

7) Shaedon Sharpe, SG, picked by Portland Trail Blazers

8) Dyson Daniels, PG/SG, picked by New Orleans Pelicans (from Lakers)

9) Jeremy Sochan, PF, picked by San Antonio Spurs

10) Johnny Davis, SG, picked by Washington Wizards

11) Ousmane Dieng, SF, picked by New York Knicks (traded to Thunder)

12) Jalen Williams, SG, picked by Oklahoma City Thunder (from Clippers)

13) Jalen Duren, C, picked by Charlotte Hornets (traded to Pistons via Knicks)

14) Ochai Agbaji, SG, picked by Cleveland Cavaliers

15) Mark Williams, C, picked by Charlotte Hornets (from Pelicans)

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