Team USA recently secured a commitment from 2023 NBA Rookie of the Year Paolo Banchero to play in this summer’s FIBA World Cup.
Banchero’s decision didn’t come without controversy, as he’d previously made a verbal commitment to play for Italy in the event.
Italian Basketball Federation president Gianni Petrucci was left with a sour taste in his mouth over the situation and explained his frustrations.
“It was a legitimate decision, but he could have made a call to communicate that to us,” Petrucci said to La Gazzetta dello Sport. “Instead, we learned about his decision from the newspapers. In the past few days, he was in Milan, and despite our agreements with his agency, he avoided the meeting with coach [Gianmarco] Pozzecco.”
Petrucci added more.
“Betrayal, especially in basketball, is a strong word,” he said. “Situations like this happen, and personally, I’m used to it. But he fooled us. We were planning a great commercial strategy for him. Now, we need to turn this disappointment into positive energy. I’m sure our coach will be able to do it.”
According to ESPN, Banchero’s family history with USA Basketball played a role in his decision to pick Team USA.
“Banchero’s mother, Rhonda Smith-Banchero, was involved with USA Basketball during her playing career — she was a star at the University of Washington — and that played a role in his decision, sources said,” wrote NBA insider Brian Windhorst.
Banchero figures to play a key role at the FIBA World Cup after putting together an impressive rookie season in the NBA.
Some of the most notable players joining him on Team USA are Jaren Jackson Jr., Anthony Edwards, Tyrese Haliburton, Brandon Ingram and Jalen Brunson.
Banchero averaged 20.0 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game in the 2022-23 season. His Orlando Magic finished with a losing record at 34-48, but they showed legitimate signs of growth and finished with their best winning percentage since the 2019-20 season.
As the Magic continue with their rebuild, they’ll likely eventually return to playoff contention, at which point it will be useful for a player like Banchero to have experience playing in do-or-die situations like the FIBA World Cup will present.
Team USA will begin training camp in early August before the event begins later in the month. Hopefully for the Magic, Banchero is currently recharging during this stage of the NBA offseason because he’s going to have some busy stretches coming up in the near future.