Who Are Paolo Banchero’s Parents? Was He Eligible to Play for Italy in FIBA World Cup 2023?

Published 09/01/2023, 6:56 AM EDT

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The Orlando Magic have had a long struggle of finding a franchise player since Dwight Howard‘s departure decades ago. Although the franchise did make the playoffs in this stretch, they never had a poster body. However, that changed when Paolo Banchero broke into the scene as the No.1 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.

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Banchero set the league ablaze upon his arrival. His dominance in the NBA has now translated to his performance at the 2023 FIBA World Cup. Despite Team USA’s stacked lineup, Banchero has made a name for himself in the prestigious tournament. However, if not for a major decision before the tournament began, Banchero’s fate in the World Cup would have been completely different. Unlike the other players on the roster, Banchero holds a dual citizenship for the United States as well as Italy. So could Paolo Banchero play for Team Italy if he wished to?

How is Paolo Banchero Italian?

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Although Paolo Banchero was born and raised in the United States, his parents Rhonda Smith-Banchero and Mario Banchero come from different backgrounds. His mother Rhonda Smith-Banchero is of an African-American descent whereas his father Mario Banchero is Italian. This gives Banchero a mixed heritage and also his Italian roots.

USA Today via Reuters

Before Paolo Banchero won the Rookie of the Year award in the NBA, he was just a kid growing up in Seattle. His mother served as an inspiration for young Paolo to pursue basketball professionally. She played college basketball for the Washington Huskies back in her day. In fact, she graduated from the program as its all-time scoring leader. After putting up 2,948 points for the Huskies, she earned an induction into the Husky Hall of Fame in 2004. Owing to her remarkable college basketball stint, she also made it to the WNBA.

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Rhonda Smith-Banchero was selected 46th overall by the Sacramento Monarchs in the 2000 WNBA Draft. Before her WNBA selection, she played multiple seasons in the ABL. She also played several seasons in overseas leagues before taking up the head coaching role at the Holy Names Academy in Seattle.

On the other hand, Banchero’s father, Mario Banchero played college football for the Washington Huskies. Banchero’s parents met while attending college and have been together since. Coming from a sporting family, the Magic forward naturally took a keen interest in sports, which blossomed into a promising basketball career.

Now, Banchero has joined Team USA and has already shown glimpses of greatness. But what if Banchero had decided to join Team Italy before the FIBA World Cup? After all, he holds the citizenship of both nations.

Banchero’s Team Italy stint is a major “what if”

Owing to his paternal ancestry, Paolo Banchero received his Italian citizenship in 2020. The 20-year-old in fact also stated that he may play for Team Italy in the FIBA World Cup earlier this year. However, he eventually decided to represent Team USA, crushing the hopes of Italian fans. However, what if he had chosen to join in the Team Italy roster?

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USA Today via Reuters

Paolo Banchero currently averages 12.3 PPG and 3.7 RPG coming off the bench for Team USA. The 20-year-old also had a breakout performance in Team USA’s first matchup scoring 21 points and bagging the Player of the Match award. However, had he played for Team Italy, chances of him coming off the bench were next to negligible.

Team Italy is currently placed in second position in Group A of the FIBA World Cup. They have won two of their three games but dropped one to Karl-Anthony Towns and Team Dominican Republic. However, had Paolo Banchero played for them, their roster would be elevated instantly. Banchero would thrive in a roster that boasts of just one NBA star. Banchero would have elevated his game to a different level, given the exposure he would receive with Team Italy.

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Watch This Story: After Adding Michael Jordan’s Signature Move, Can Anthony Edwards Live Up to the Hype at FIBA World Cup for Team USA?

Nevertheless, the Magic forward chose to represent Team USA and has not disappointed so far. His services would be crucial for Team USA moving forward in the tournament. However, one cannot help but wonder how Banchero would have performed, had he played for Team Italy.

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Written by:

Sachit Kaundinya

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One take at a time

Sachit is an NBA content writer at EssentiallySports. He has been following the NBA for several years and is deeply passionate about the sport and it’s strategic aspects. Combining his passion and desire to stay connected with basketball, Sachit pursued a writing career.
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Edited by:

Bilal Handoo

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