O’Dea’s junior-to-be Paolo Banchero is one of the top high school basketball recruits nationally in the class of 2021, and he led the Irish to the Class 3A Washington state championship in March.
Scorebook Live sat down for a Q&A with Banchero during the Curtis Summer League Tournament:
Q: You are halfway through your high school career. What stands out about your time so far at O’Dea High School?
A: “I feel like I’ve really improved – and grown. My first summer playing with O’Dea when I was going to be a freshman, I wasn’t playing a lot. I was questioning myself. And I wasn’t really playing hard. But I took the time in the fall to come back, and I developed a motor and started playing harder. I found my way into the starting lineup and had a good role on that (2017-18) team. We had a good team, and did alright at state. I came back the next year and really wanted to win state, and took on a role as a leader. We won state (in Class 3A). It was an up-and-down season, but we finished strong. And this summer, I am trying to be the focal point of the team and lead us in the right direction. I think we can win another (3A) championship this year, so we need to continue to learn and develop.”
Q: What is the one moment about winning a Class 3A state title over Mount Spokane (70-39 final) that sticks with you the most?
A: “I would probably say at halftime of the championship game, we were playing great defense, but on offense we were kind of slow and stagnant. We came into the locker room, and we were up (25-18). We knew we could really blow this open, and that is when we really kind of realized that we had 16 minutes left. We just have to give our all, and we could win this. Everybody really came together and locked in for the second half.”
Q: Is there one player from Washington who came before you that you’ve developed a great deal or appreciation and respect for as you’ve gone on in your career?
A: “Jamal Crawford (of Rainier Beach) and Zach LaVine (of Bothell) are two guys I am really close with. My trainer is Zach’s best friend so I am always around him, and Jamal has kind of taken me under his wing this past year or so. Those guys, they want the best for me, and they push me to work hard and they have given me great advice. They both grew up n Washington … and they both know what it takes. Both have had successful NBA careers, so so I listen to them and pick up stuff from them.”
Q: If basketball was somehow taken away from you, what would end up being your No. 1 sport?
A: “I’d go back to playing football. … I am not really good at playing any other sports. But I don’t know if I’d play quarterback if I came back to football.”
Q: You have a busy summer ahead. What are your goals?
A: I want to continue to get better. And once July rolls around when we’ve got Peach Jam left (with Rotary), I want to make a run hopefully because I feel we can. We have a good shot at winning it. I want to perform well at the camps I am scheduled to go to.”
Q: One thing I know O’Dea coach Jason Kerr wants you to do is expand your shooting range and become a reliable 3-point shooter. Where are you with that skill development?
A: “I am comfortable at the 3-point line … and I shoot it a lot during the AAU season, and I knock it down pretty good, but I have never really shot it in (high school). My freshman year, I only attempted six 3s, and did not make one of them. Last year, I probably made seven (3-pointers) the whole year. It is about growing more comfortable within this offense, and shooting more 3s. Sometimes I feel like I should pass and not shoot the 3, because I feel like if I did, it would be a bad shot. But (Kerr) has pushed me about seeing it is a good shot. He wants me to continue to shoot them so when during the season, other teams get a scouting report, they will back off or play because they don’t think I will shoot it. He wants me to shoot it so they respect my 3 so I will have opportunities to attack.”
Q: What do you think about internet player rankings, and the attention that comes with them?
A: “I mean, you can’t really control it. My goal was obviously to be a five-star (recruit), but that wasn’t what I was focused on – it just kind of happened. I performed well, so I got noticed. They rank me wherever they rank me – top five, top four now. As long as I get the schools I want, and the looks I want and accomplish all of my goals as far as All-American games and stuff like that, I could care less where I am ranked. As far as the pressure, I just come up and do the same thing I’ve always done – just play hard.”
Q: How much did you watch last week’s 2019 NBA Draft?
A: “I watched the whole draft, from the first to the last pick. I always like watching the whole draft. First of all, there were four Washington guys, so I wanted to see where they were picked. But I just always like seeing where people get picked – and I am always interested to see who is the last pick.”