Paolo Banchero Ghosts Italian National Team to Play For Team USA | Italian Basketball Federation President Calls Move A ‘Betrayal’ Ahead Of FIBA Tourney

Paolo Banchero is officially public enemy number one to the president of the Italian Basketball Federation. The Orlando Magic rising star initially expressed interest in playing for the Italian national team because of his family ties with the country but recently had a change of heart. Shams Charania of The Athletic reported on June 24 that Banchero committed to play for Team USA.

His decision was met with some backlash after Gianni Petrucci, president of the Italian Basketball Federation, blasted him for leaving the team “hanging.”

Paolo Banchero dribbling the basketball up the court. (Photo: @paolo5/ Instagram screenshot)

The Art of Ghosting

The Rookie of the Year strongly considered playing for Italian national team because his father is from the country and he received citizenship in 2020.

In October, Banchero told then teammate R.J. Hampton on the “Young Person Basketball” podcast about his interest for playing with the Italian national team.

“I’m planning to play for the Italian national team, I’m not sure when. I haven’t been out there yet, but man, the amount of love I’m getting from there, it’s crazy, man,” said Banchero to Hampton. “I can’t wait to go to Italy.”

The 20-year-old was schedule to meet with the team and their head coach to discuss the official agreement of him playing this summer but it was reported that he never showed up to the meeting.

“It was a legitimate decision, but he could have made a call to communicate that to us. Betrayal, especially in basketball…is a strong word. 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,” Petrucci told La Gazzetta.

This was also not the first time he ghosted the Italians. Banchero turned down invitations to play for Italy in EuroBasket 2022 tournament and at the world qualifiers in 2020 that was postponed to July 2021.

Team USA Chances

As for the 2023 FIBA World Cup tournament, it is set to begin in late August in the Philippines, Japan, and Indonesia. The Team USA roster will be young and currently has no international experience among the 11 players already committed to playing. So, the squad may be looking to add some veteran experience with a 12th roster spot that is still available.

The team will be coached by Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr. Brandon Ingram, Anthony Edwards, and Jaren Jackson Jr. will headline an inexperienced roster.

Banchero brings his smooth ball-handling skills, elite scoring ability, strength and size at the power forward position. He will probably play the same role as Carmelo Anthony did during his two gold medal runs with Team USA.

If Petrucci’s squad is seeking revenge for Banchero’s betrayal the opportunity would not come until a later-round matchup, as Team Italy is in Group A and Team USA is in Group C.

Team USA will head to Las Vegas in early August for training camp and an exhibition game against Puerto Rico. Their tournament first matchup is against New Zealand on Aug. 26.

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