FIBA World Cup

Paolo Banchero downplays Italy encounter after shunning federation for USA stint

JR Isaga

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Paolo Banchero downplays Italy encounter after shunning federation for USA stint

NO LOOKING BACK. USA forward Paolo Banchero reacts after a play against Italy in the 2023 FIBA World Cup


Former NBA top draft pick Paolo Banchero brushes off his former connection with Italy – his father's home country which he considered playing for – after the USA's FIBA World Cup quarterfinal rout

MANILA, Philippines – The Italy men’s basketball team had a future superstar in its hands after eventual NBA top draft pick Paolo Banchero expressed his intention to play for his father’s homeland back when he was 17 years old.

That dream for Italy, however, slowly disintegrated over the years after Banchero drew cold feet on the idea, eventually deciding to play for mighty USA Basketball ahead of the 2023 FIBA World Cup.

On Tuesday, September 5, the two narratives finally intertwined as Banchero’s USA met Italy in the knockout quarterfinal, with the Americans making the Italians’ storybook run a mere footnote in the form of a 100-63 semis-clinching blowout.

While Azzurri fans got heated with boos the moment Banchero stepped on the Mall of Asia Arena court, the rising star’s response to the entire situation even after the game was as icy as Italy’s shooting against the stifling US defenses.

“It was very fun getting out there, playing in a high competitive quarterfinal game. I’m happy we got the win and we get to move on to the semifinals,” Banchero said, quickly brushing aside the whole point of the question regarding his first game against Italy.

“The basketball’s only going to get tougher. We got one of two great teams coming up and whoever we play is gonna be a great matchup and we’ll be excited. We’ll be ready to go,” he continued.

Banchero’s reaction was nothing new, however, as he recently made the social media rounds with an even colder response to a reporter asking if he has a message to the people of Italy: “Uh, no.”

The Orlando Magic centerpiece was significantly more interested in talking about USA’s top highlight of the game: a between-the-legs alley-oop pass from Tyrese Haliburton that led to an emphatic Banchero jam to end a third-quarter rampage.

“I thought he was going to throw it off the backboard,” Banchero recalled. “He went between his legs and kinda threw off my timing. I wanted to do a fancy dunk off the backboard, but he threw it between his legs, so I just wanted to finish it.”

Right now, Banchero and USA are back on track ahead of the knockout semifinal, where either Germany or Latvia await as the final roadblock before the winner-take-all championship game.

Italy, meanwhile, is now nothing but a burning bridge left in Banchero’s rearview mirror, as the young star moves on to bigger things donning the stars and stripes. –

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