Paolo Banchero accused of ‘betrayal’ by Italian basketball president after commitment to Team USA

Reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Paolo Banchero will play for Team USA at the upcoming FIBA World Cup rather than Italy, much to the apparent surprise of Italy.

Two days after the Orlando Magic star was reported to have committed to the Americans, Italian basketball federation president Gianni Petrucci unloaded on him for misrepresenting his intentions while deciding which country he would play for.

Banchero was born and raised in the United States, but his father is Italian and he owns an Italian passport, which gave him the ability to choose between Italy and Team USA. Banchero said he intended to play for Italy last year.

Per a quote translated by Basketnews, Petrucci said Banchero didn’t even tell the Italians about the decision:

“It was a legitimate decision, but he could have made a call to communicate that to us. Instead, we learned about his decision from the newspapers,” Petrucci told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “In the past few days, he was in Milan, and despite our agreements with his agency, he avoided the meeting with coach Pozzecco.”

“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 added.

The University of Washington — where Banchero’s mother is the all-time leading scorer of the women’s basketball team — might be able to relate to Italy, as the Huskies were once seen as a favorite for Banchero’s services in college until he made a somewhat surprising commitment to Duke.

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 31: Paolo Banchero #5 of the Orlando Magic dribbles against the Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena on March 31, 2023 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images)

Paolo Banchero is one of many rising stars on Team USA’s World Cup roster. (Photo by Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images)

The 20-year-old Banchero is coming off a Rookie of the Year campaign that saw him 20.0 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game while shooting 42.7% from the field and 29.3 from 3-point range for the 34-48 Magic.

Team USA almost done filling World Cup roster

With the addition of Banchero, Team USA has 11 of 12 spots filled for its roster at the World Cup, which is scheduled to begin on Aug. 25.

Such rosters usually feature more rising stars than All-Stars, and that holds for the 2023 edition. Here is the current slate of commits:

  • Paolo Banchero, F, Orlando Magic

  • Mikal Bridges, F, Brooklyn Nets

  • Jalen Brunson, G, Detroit Pistons

  • Anthony Edwards, G, Minnesota Timberwolves

  • Tyrese Haliburton, G, Indiana Pacers

  • Brandon Ingram, F, New Orleans Pelicans

  • Jaren Jackson Jr., F/C, Memphis Grizzlies

  • Cam Johnson, F, Brooklyn Nets

  • Walker Kessler, C, Utah Jazz

  • Bobby Portis, F/C, Milwaukee Bucks

  • Austin Reaves, G, Los Angeles Lakers

Banchero figures to vie with Bridges and Jackson for minutes at power forward, one of the team’s deeper positions.