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Did Paolo Banchero “Fool” Italy After Team USA Call Up?

Published 08/24/2023, 12:55 PM EDT

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USA Today via Reuters

The Orlando Magic has been a sub-par team since Dwight Howard left over a decade ago. They have been rebuilding since then, and therefore ended up picking a young team. Having been at the bottom for many years, these youngsters can now be star players. One of those players is Forward Paolo Banchero. Averaging 20 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists last season, he earned the Rookie of the Year honor. Therefore, his value is sky high in the Association. 

Banchero was also heavily sought after in the buildup to the FIBA World CupHe holds dual citizenship, being both Italian and American. Why did the Forward end up choosing the USA over Italy?

Does the Italian Basketball Federation feel betrayed by Paolo Banchero?

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Banchero’s father Mario is Italian while his mother Rhonda Banchero is an American. In 2020, after multiple trips to San Francisco, which houses the Italian Embassy, the Forward officially got his Italian Citizenship.

In October, while talking to his Italian teammate, RJ Hampton, on his Fubo Sports podcast, the Orlando Magic Forward showed commitment to Italy. He said, I’m planning to play for the Italian national team, I’m not sure when. I haven’t been out there yet, but man, the amount of love I’m getting from there it’s crazy.”

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This ignited hope among the Italian Basketball Federation that they could nab a much-needed talent like him. As per the Federation, his agency LIFT Sports Management had also assented to him playing for Italy.

However, when the time to make a decision came, he chose the USA. He didn’t inform the Federation himself, they learned about it in the papers.

This made the Federation furious. President Gianni Petrucci termed this as a betrayal. Talking to the Italian publication La Gazzetta dello Sport, he stated, “Betrayal, especially in basketball, is a strong word. Situations like this happen, and personally, I’m used to it. But he fooled us, we were planning a great commercial strategy for him.”

What made the incredible Forward change his decision?

Why the USA?

Banchero’s mother Rhonda was a USA basketball star and also played a season in the WNBA. When in college, she set an NCAA record as the Washington Huskies’ All-Time leading scorer. Apparently, this played a massive role in Paolo’s decision.

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Coaching legend Mike Krzyzewski also played a role in the decision. When Paolo informed Coach K that he intended to represent Italy, the coach asked him to reconsider. He called this a “hard decision.”

Paolo cited Kyrie Irving’s case, who has dual citizenship too, but chose to represent the USA over Australia and won the gold for them in the 2016 Summer Olympics. As per Banchero, these factors “…were in my mind when I really sat down to think about this.”

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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?

Do you think Banchero betrayed Italy or made a better decision? Tell us in the comments below!

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Written by:

Shubham Singh

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Shubham is an NBA Writer at Essentially Sports. He became a fan of the NBA in late 2000s and his interest skyrocketed after Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks upset the Miami Heat in Six Games during 2011 NBA Finals. He loves looking into playing styles of different players and teams while also trying to analyse what circumstances shape a typical NBA game.
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Edited by:

Aayush Kapoor