Duke’s Paolo Banchero has been inspired by Seattle-based NBA stars Zach LaVine, Dejounte Murray and others.
Duke men’s basketball freshman Paolo Banchero keeps his hometown of Seattle close to him wherever he goes.
On Saturday night, the 19-year-old superstar will grace the court in New Orleans’ Caesars Superdome, guiding the Blue Devils in their first Final Four appearance since 2015 and the program’s last under legendary head coach Mike Krzyzewski.
While he attended college nearly 3,000 miles from O’Dea High School, Banchero’s intricate Seattle tattoo serves as a reminder of those who are watching and supporting him back home.
Banchero is quick to pay respects to the 206, Seattle’s area code.
“Something I enjoy (about Seattle) is the basketball community,” Banchero told Heat Check CBB at the Final Four media availability in New Orleans.
“All of the guys who made it professionally before me … they all come back, they always give back, they always have camps and the Pro-Am. You see them growing up and it gives you a person to look up to.”
One of Seattle’s favorite basketball sons is Jamal Crawford, the No. 8 overall pick out of the 2000 NBA Draft and a 20-year pro vet. Like Banchero, Crawford went east to college (Michigan) but holds Seattle close, making frequent stops home.
In addition to helping train current stars like Zach Lavine and Kyrie Irving and local recruits and college players, Crawford hosts the annual “The Crawsover” pro-am league at Seattle Pacific University, creating one of the best competitive environments to highlight the Seattle-area basketball scene.
Ultimately, Seattle is often overlooked as a basketball city. The SuperSonics left town for Oklahoma City back in 2008, and the city’s sports buzz ever since has largely focused on the Seahawks, Sounders and whenever the Mariners are competitive.
But when the city’s legends like Crawford and Banchero promote Seattle’s hoop prowess, it shines light on a severely underrated basketball town that follows its products as closely as ever.
This season alone, 10 different players from the greater Seattle area have played in an NBA game, a list that includes Zach LaVine, Dejounte Murray, Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Malachi Flynn, Jaden McDaniels, Jalen McDaniels, Kevin Porter Jr., Jaylen Nowell and Gary Payton III.
Even before reaching the next level, Banchero has plenty of local NBA products — both current and former — in his ear providing support and advice.
“I’m close with pretty much every pro out of (Seattle) — Jamal Crawford, Dejounte Murray, Zach LaVine, the list goes on and on. All of those guys … are all guys who I’ve got their numbers and stuff and we talk,” Banchero said.
“They don’t try to bug me too much but they always drop gems and wish me good luck.”
Still just a teenager, Banchero is poised to become the next great out of Seattle and another advocate of the prideful Pacific Northwest basketball community.
Header image courtesy of Duke Athletics.