Paolo Banchero went yesterday to the pavilion of the Nets, in Brooklyn (New York), ready to attract attention. And boy did he make it. He attracted attention not only because of his purple suit full of shiny pendants and a huge silver pendant with a P5 (for Paolo and for the number 5, with which he plays), but also because he became the number one in the Draft, chosen by Orlando Magic among all the new players in the NBA, the professional basketball league in the United States.

The surprise was relative. Although the Italian-American was expected to be in the top positions, for that first place the favorites were Jabari Smith and Chet Holmgrem, the two most outstanding players of the last year of North American university basketball. Finally, the Oklahoma City Thunder have chosen Holmgrem as number two, and the Houston Rockets, Smith in third place.

The NBA Draft is a spectacle that is closely followed in all cities with a team in the professional league. This Thursday, the Capital One Arena in Washington, for example, was quite a party where the selection of players was broadcast live and continued on the track and in the stands with revelry, despite the fact that the Wizards were the tenth to choose. It is the entire season of signing new players concentrated in four hours of prime time. The system gives preference to the weakest teams when choosing, in order to try to equalize the competition over time, although it has a part of chance. Orlando won the toss.

Paolo Napoleón James Banchero is a 19-year-old, 2.08-meter-tall power forward born in Seattle, of an Italian father and an American mother, for which he has been concentrated with the Italian team on occasions. His mother, Ronda Smith-Banchero, was a professional WNBA basketball player; His father and his uncle played football in college, and Paolo, as a child, played both sports. In his new franchise, the Orlando Magic, he will have to adopt the figure of leader in a young block that has reaped disappointing seasons. This earned them to select Jalen Suggs and Franz Wagner last year, who have not been able to make a difference in favor of Florida.

In eighth grade, at the age of 14, he was selected as one of the best 50 players of his age in both sports. He stood out for his height, almost two meters at 13 years old. In high school he chose basketball and started winning all kinds of awards. Then he chose Duke (in North Carolina), a college basketball classic, where, among others, Kyrie Irving, Seth Curry, Jayson Tatum and Zion Williamson played, the last —and so far disappointing— number one of the blue devils until yesterday, which is the fifth in the history of said university.

“I feel like this is a fantasy. I dreamed of being in the NBA, but being number one… this is crazy”, he declared after being chosen, unable to hold back his tears. Banchero managed to put Duke in the semifinals of the university tournament and was chosen as the best rookie of the year in his conference. He decided to jump into the NBA on the fast track after just one year in college.

Holmgrem y Smith

Chet Holmgrem, chosen number two by the Thunder, is a slim center of 2.13 meters tall, with a great percentage of success in the shot. Very thin, his physique is a bit reminiscent of Gasol prior to his arrival in the NBA. As with Pau, the trainers will make an effort to make him gain muscle and weight. At Gonzaga University he has achieved 14 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.7 blocks per game thanks to his great size. However, he was unable to prevent his team from being eliminated in the round of 16 of the United States college tournament after coming in as the best team in the regular season with 28 wins and four losses. He comes to a team in the process of rebuilding and full of youngsters like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander or Josh Giddey, which will favor his growth as a player.

Jabari Smith arrived at the Barclays Center as a great favorite to be chosen in the first position of the Draft. However, the 2.08-meter power forward from Auburn University fell to third position, selected by the Rockets, in a year in which tall men have monopolized the top positions in the Draft, after a season that has crowned the outside game of Stephen Curry, in an NBA finals with more triples than ever. With a somewhat more conventional dress in a gala that looked like a parade of fashion models over two meters tall. Smith couldn’t hide his disappointment at hearing the names of Banchero and Holmgrem.

The Sacramento Kings chose Keegan Murray of the University of Iowa in fourth place and the Detroit Pistons Jaden Ivey in fifth. Basketball is a team game. College champion Kansas had no player in the top five.

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