Skip to main content

Magic Rookie Paolo Banchero Ready to Lead Orlando?

How soon will the No. 1 overall pick step up as the team's leader?
  • Author:
  • Publish date:

When Paolo Banchero and the Duke Blue Devils punched their ticket to the 2022 Men's Basketball Tournament in March — they did so as an underdog.

The last time the Blue Devils advanced to the Final Four was in 2015. And given their controversial recognition as the No. 2 seed of the West Region, many believed that Duke would make an early exit during coach Mike Krzyzewski's final tournament run.

But by the end of the 2021-22 campaign, the Blue Devils fell one round shy of the championship game in an 81-77 defeat to the North Carolina Tar Heels in New Orleans. It was a collected efforted by the Blue Devils en route to their first Final Four appearance in seven years. But leading the charge for Duke was the future Orlando Magic top overall pick.

Banchero continued to create separation between himself and his collegiate peers during Duke's run to the Final Four. He averaged 18.8 points on .500/.526/.727 shooting splits while recording 7.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.2 blocks. But Banchero's best attribute came due to the leadership qualities Duke relied upon to define the odds.

The Magic adding Banchero to their young core could have a positive impact both on and off the court. In 36 career games at Duke, Banchero averaged 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.1 steals. Banchero took home ACC Rookie of the Year and First-Team All-ACC honors following his lone campaign at Duke.

Banchero's on-court talents overshadow his leadership qualities, but it's a characteristic the Magic need entering the second year of their rebuild.