Paolo Banchero shows no love for Italian fans ahead of Team USA-Italy clash
MANILA, Philippines—Team USA forward Paolo Banchero has nothing to offer to his fans in Italy.
Well, he may not have many supporters left on that side of the world anyway after his blunt response when asked if he has a message for his Italian fans on the eve of their Fiba World Cup quarterfinal game with the Azzurri.
“Uh, no,” a stoic Banchero, whose father has Italian heritage, said in a video that has been making rounds on social media.
— Eurohoops (@Eurohoopsnet) September 4, 2023
The United States clashes with Italy, which heavily recruited Banchero to bolster its national team for the past several years, later at 8:30 p.m. at Mall of Asia Arena.
Banchero, the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year, came close to playing for Italy at the Tokyo Olympics when he was 17 years old but the COVID-19 pandemic happened and changed the direction of his basketball career.
Last June, Banchero ultimately decided to represent Team USA which understandably left a sour taste in the mouth of Italian Basketball Federation president Gianni Petrucci.
“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 said in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport last June. “In the past few days, he was in Milan, and despite our agreements with his agency, he avoided the meeting with coach (Gianmarco) 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.”
Banchero, who stars for the Orlando Magic in the NBA, said that what led to his decision is his mother, who played for USA Basketball in the 1990s.