Kentucky may now have another extremely intriguing option on the table for the class of 2020.
Paolo Banchero, a consensus top-five prospect in the class of 2021, is now “seriously considering” a jump to 2020.
“We’re always so busy in the summer at tournaments and events,” Banchero said in a recent interview with Jason Jordan of USA Today. “Now that I have time to think, it’s something that I’m seriously considering at this point.”
Banchero, a 6-foot-10 forward out of Seattle, Washington, currently offers from Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, and Washington, among others.
When asked about the benefits of reclassifying to 2020 versus staying in his original class, the five-star big man said that coaches are telling him that he’s capable of playing at the college level right now and that physically, there is no reason for him to wait.
“There are a lot of benefits to moving up to 2020,” Banchero said. “The biggest is just that it takes off a year of wear and tear on your body. I’ve had coaches tell me that I could play right now; I don’t know about that, but I know I’ll be ready a year from now. There’s a lot to weigh out; I’m not saying I’m definitely gonna do it. I’m strongly considering it though.”
In an interview with Kentucky Sports Radio at Peach Jam three weeks ago, Banchero admitted that he was left speechless when John Calipari called him for the first time and offered him a scholarship.
“Psh, that was crazy,” he told KSR. “Talking to Coach Cal for like 20 minutes on the phone, he offered me, it was surreal. I’m not even gonna lie to you.”
During their conversation, the five-star big man said that the Kentucky head coach wants him to be reach his dreams of playing in the NBA and that Lexington is the best place to make that happen.
“It was just surreal, hearing his voice, talking to him,” he told KSR. “Talking about how much he wants me, about he wants me to follow my dreams, help me achieve my dreams of getting to the NBA as a top-five pick, all that stuff. I’ve been talking to Coach Barbee a lot too, so it’s been really good.”
He also told KSR that Kentucky will receive one of his official visits.
“I plan on taking an official, for sure,” he said.
Back at the NBPA Top100 Camp in Charlottesville, VA last month, Banchero said that he was hoping for Kentucky reach out and show genuine interest, because he would certainly return the love.
After outplaying 2020 Duke commit Jalen Johnson and fellow Kentucky target Makur Maker, two of his teammates at the event, in front of John Calipari, Kenny Payne, and Joel Justus, the UK coaching staff did just that. Banchero received an offer just a few days later.
“I mean, it’s Kentucky,” he said. “You know, they’ve been putting dudes in the league, getting to the tournament, getting to the Final Four, championship, all that, for 10 years now [since John Calipari has been the head coach].”
The Seattle native has been rumored to want to stay on the West coast at the college level, likely at Washington, though he told KSR that he’s willing to play anywhere in the country if the fit is right.
“I’m willing to go wherever,” Banchero said. “Not saying I won’t stay on the West coast. But if I was trying to go to an East coast school or down South, distance wouldn’t really affect me too much.”
With Kentucky set on recruiting a backcourt of Josh Christopher, Jalen Green and BJ Boston for 2020, one source close to the Kentucky program said they are now focused on turning their attention to the frontcourt and who fits best with their other top guard targets. Isaiah Todd is one of those prospects, and with a jump to 2020, Banchero would almost certainly be the other.
Add in Kentucky being in solid position with Cam’Ron Fletcher, Lance Ware, and Cliff Omoruyi, the Cats could find themselves atop the recruiting rankings once again in 2020.