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MANILA, Philippines – Paolo Banchero, Orlando Magic’s No.1 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, shone the brightest for USA in their 99-72 demolition of New Zealand in the 2023 FIBA World Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena on Saturday, August 26.
While many fans were anticipating huge-scoring outings from NBA All-Star Anthony Edwards and crowd favorite Austin Reaves, it was Banchero who led USA in the scoring department with 21 points on a very efficient 8-of-10 shooting, 4 rebounds, and 4 blocks off the bench.
Interestingly, prior to USA’s arrival in Manila last Tuesday, August 22, Banchero already knew what to expect from the basketball-crazy Philippines, thanks to his older cousin Chris, who plays point guard for the Meralco Bolts in the PBA.
“[Chris] texted me a couple days before I got here, just telling me what to expect and welcoming me,” Banchero told reporters following USA’s lopsided win.
“Hopefully, I’m going to try to get him come to a game here soon and also meet up with my dad, and have a nice family moment,” added the American-Italian rising star.
Playing in front of approximately 11,000 fans at the Mall of Asia Arena, Banchero dropped 12 of his 21 points in the pivotal third quarter that saw the Americans pull away from the gritty Tall Blacks for good.
“It’s been crazy. From the hotel lobby to the arena, the fans here show so much love and support,” said Banchero of the Filipino hoop fans who came out to support USA on Saturday.
“You could tell they really just love basketball and they’re super excited,” he added.
The all-NBA USA squad shoots for a 2-0 start in Group C when it clashes with Greece on Monday, August 28, at 8:40 pm.
FIBA | WATCH:— Rappler Sports (@RapplerSports) August 26, 2023
“From the hotel lobby to the arena, the fans here show so much love and support,” says Paolo Banchero after scoring a game-high 21 points for USA.
“You could tell they really just love basketball and they’re super excited,” he continues.#FIBAWorldCup2023 pic.twitter.com/oAS2fqKWVc