Paolo Banchero feels he is more than ready to meet the challenge of the NBA and the expectations that come with being the number one overall pick.  

In his only season at Duke, the 6-foot-10 Banchero averaged a team-best 17.2 points per game and grabbed 7.8 rebounds, while handing out 3.2 assists. He also didn’t shrink in big moments, scoring at least 16 points in all five of the Blue Devils’ NCAA Tournament games this year. 

Banchero was something of a surprise as the top selection in Thursday’s NBA Draft, with many having Auburn’s Jabari Smith pegged as the Orlando Magic’s top choice. He said he didn’t even know he would go first overall until about 30 seconds before NBA commissioner Adam Silver took the stage to announce his name.  

"It all happened pretty fast," he said. "I didn’t even have time to really think about it or anything. It just kind of happened. I can’t believe it, but I’m ready."

Banchero arrived in Orlando on Friday and will next begin a whirlwind of activity before starting workouts next week for the Magic’s July 7 opener at NBA Summer League.  

"There's going to be high expectations for myself that I'm going to hold myself to and that everyone is going to hold myself to," Banchero said. "But I feel like it's nothing I'm not used to.

"It was the same thing for me heading into college, throughout high school, a lot of expectations. It's been like that my whole life." 

The Magic did work out Smith, and listened to teams that called about obtaining the first pick in a trade, but Magic head coach Jamahl Mosley said in the end, the team felt that Banchero was the best player at the college level this past season and would be the best fit. 

"There's things that you're grabbing from each [top player in the draft] that you're like, 'Oh, man, wow, that can be great for us','' he said.

"But then it ultimately comes down to, 'How does that fit for us? How do we jell with them in the locker room? How are they treating people when they're walking in?' – because all those pieces play a factor, and I think we've done an incredible job with those details." 

The Magic are a combined 43-111 in the past two seasons, have made the playoffs just twice in the last 10 years and haven’t won a round in the postseason since 2009-10.  

A clear top tier has emerged ahead of Thursday's NBA Draft, comprised of Auburn wing Jabari Smith, Gonzaga center Chet Holmgren and Duke forward Paolo Banchero.

The Orlando Magic hold the keys to the draft with the first overall pick, and ever since they won the lottery the buzz has been about their affinity for the six-foot-10, smooth-shooting Smith.

Smith, who only turned 19 in May, is one of the youngest prospects in the draft and seems to tick a number of high-value boxes that are usually required to become a star in the NBA.

His premier skill is his shooting, boasting arguably the prettiest jump shot in the whole class, and he converted a scorching 42 per cent of his three-pointers while getting up a healthy 5.5 attempts per game.

Playing at Auburn with a cast of guards, who at times appeared to have no idea they were playing with an NBA player, meant Smith was primarily used in an off-ball role, getting shots up quickly off the catch or at the end of plays, as opposed to getting an opportunity to create with the ball in his hands.

This role and his ability to stylishly rise up and hit long jumpers at his size with hands in his face have caused many to compare him to former Magic power forward and two-time All-Star Rashard Lewis.

Lewis appears to be Smith's 'floor' – which would be a pretty handy worst possible outcome if it is the case – but his athleticism, seven-foot-one wingspan with defensive upside, and well-reported elite work ethic as a son of a former NBA player puts him on a similar trajectory to Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum, who also had questions raised about his playmaking and ball-handling coming out of Duke.

The Magic will be selecting between Smith and Holmgren, with the Gonzaga big-man clearly the most unique prospect in the class.

Holmgren has been on NBA radars since his high school days when he was carrying the United States to junior gold medals – winning Tournament MVP at the 2021 FIBA Under-19 Basketball World Cup.

As the number-one recruit in the country coming into the 2021-22 college basketball season, Holmgren chose to shun traditional 'one-and-done' schools to go play for respected coach Mark Few at Gonzaga, where he would buy into a pro-style team system instead of playing for a program that would allow him to average 20 points per game.

Out of more than 3000 Division One college players, Holmgren was fourth in blocks per game (3.7) and eighth in block percentage, blocking 12.6 per cent of opponent shots while he was on the court.

He was also number one in two-point field goal percentage, converting almost 74 per cent of his chances as he routinely finished off lobs and alley-oops both in the half-court and in transition, and his seven-foot-six wingspan made it impossible to block his shot when he was allowed to catch with two feet in the paint.

Add to the equation that he shot a terrific 39 per cent from long range on 3.3 attempts per game, and that he has displayed for more ball-handling and open-court playmaking in the international game than he was allowed to in college, and he is a near-flawless prospect.

As such a unique prospect, there are very few comparisons that can be made. Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis seems the only obvious choice, but Holmgren plays a less ball-dominant style, like a bigger Andrei Kirilenko.

His one major flaw scouts point to is his body – he is seven feet tall and weighs less than 200lbs – and does not appear to have a frame that will allow him to blow up physically the way Giannis Antetokounmpo and other skinny rookies have.

But how many players in the NBA right now are actually too skinny? It is hard to think of a single player who is truly unplayable because of not being physically stout enough.

Oklahoma City Thunder wing Aleksej Pokusevski is a similar build, but he does not play center, and does not show close to the defensive chops Holmgren does. 

Admittedly, against hulking behemoths like Joel Embiid – who are exceedingly rare – he may need to play next to a true, bruising center, to take the pressure off; but those match-ups are few and far between.

The third player in the top tier is Banchero, and although the Magic are reportedly not considering him with the top pick, some respected draft analysts rate him as this year's best prospect.

It is easy to see why, especially given the modern NBA.

Banchero projects as the most likely of the top trio to become a lead initiator early in his career, flashing terrific feel for the game with ball in hand, and an ability to attack the rim and create off the dribble.

In his one season, he had 24 games with at least three assists, while Smith had 11 games with at least three assists, and Holmgren had six.

The ability to create shots for yourself and others is thought of as the most valuable skill-set in basketball, with LeBron James clearly the standard-bearer, but with less explosive athleticism Banchero more closely mimics Jimmy Butler on the offensive end, without the Heat star's unrelenting defensive motor.

To be clear, Banchero is significantly bigger than both James and Butler, reportedly measuring in at over six-foot-10 without shoes, with a grown man's body at 250lbs. Given his size, his lack of true first-step explosion – or 'wiggle' off the bounce – should not greatly hinder his ability as a match-up nightmare from day one.

Banchero is too big for traditional wing defenders who will have a speed advantage on him, and he will be too quick for guys his own size.

He has shown he can run pick-and-roll and operate in a pass-first role, and jumbo playmakers like Luka Doncic and Cade Cunningham are showing that elite quickness is not mandatory at that size if you are savvy enough and understand how to use power instead of speed.

The Houston Rockets are the overwhelming favourites to select Banchero with the third selection, pairing him with one of the best athletes in the entire league in last year's number-two pick, Jalen Green.

The new era of Duke basketball continues with the formation of a new front office position to help players enhance their marketing skills in the new college sports world created by NIL (name, image and likeness).

First-year Blue Devils coach Jon Scheyer announced on Tuesday that Rachel Baker is the program's first general manager – a position she will use to assist players in capitalising on strategic partnerships. 

"The state of college basketball is growing and changing at an exponential rate," Scheyer said. "Rachel is a one-of-a-kind talent with unique experience that will provide our players and their families with an unparalleled resource and partner as we navigate new frontiers of college basketball together.

"Through her work in the NBA and at Nike, she brings nearly a decade of expertise in the business of basketball to our staff, as well as her gifts in relationship and community building, leadership development, and experiential marketing. We can't wait to see all she brings to our program in this newly created position." 

A former lacrosse player at La Salle and the daughter of a collegiate basketball coach, Baker spent eight years at Nike and one year in the NBA league office before joining Duke. At Nike, she led their Elite Youth Basketball League, developing partnerships and managing strategic initiatives. During her year with the NBA, Baker directed the marketing and rebranding of the WNBA. 

"I could not be more excited to join Jon Scheyer and the entire Duke Basketball family," said Baker. "We're in the middle of such a transformative moment – not only for Duke, but for the college basketball landscape – and the chance to be part of it is the opportunity of a lifetime.

"Duke Basketball has remained rooted in honoring our storied history while writing the future of the game. I am humbled and honored to join this tradition and can't wait to get started." 

Baker is the latest major change for the Drake program following the retirement of coach Mike Krzyzewski after he had led the team to five NCAA Tournament championships since his hiring in 1980.  

Scheyer, the 34-year-old former Blue Devils star, had been on Coach K’s staff since 2014 and took over for the Hall of Fame coach following his planned retirement in April. 

Baker, who graduated from La Salle in 2012 and holds an executive education certificate in business of entertainment, media and sport from Harvard University, is the daughter of Rod Baker, who coached Tufts from 1983-88 and Cal-Irvine from 1991-97. 

Potential first overall pick Paolo Banchero has declared for the 2022 NBA Draft after a superb season for Duke under Mike Krzyzewski.

Banchero is considered one of the top prospects in the coming draft class after averaging 17.2 points and 7.8 rebounds across 39 games in a single season with the Blue Devils.

In the final season of coach Krzyzewski's 42-year Duke career, Banchero played a key role in the team's ACC regular season championship triumph, as well as their run to the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament.

Duke's season was ended by rivals North Carolina, but Banchero had 20 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in that losing effort.

Now, he will take those talents to the NBA, announcing his entry to the draft in a video message that included words of thanks for his team-mates, fans and 'Coach K'.

"To Coach K, it was an honour to be a part of your final season," the forward said. "Thank you for pushing me every single day and expecting nothing but the best out of me.

Banchero added: "It has always been a dream of mine to play at Duke, and it has always been a dream of mine to play in the NBA.

"Duke has prepared me for that on and off the court. I'm excited to announce that I'll be entering my name in the 2022 NBA Draft.

"It has been a great journey and I'm blessed to be a part of 'The Brotherhood' for life."

Krzyzewski expects Banchero to have an impact among the pros, saying: "Paolo had a truly incredible season and is absolutely ready to attack the next phase of his playing career.

"He put up remarkable numbers and won awards, but he always put the team first. Paolo is a great leader in that regard and someone all of our players admired, even though he was just a freshman.

"He is so dynamic, explosive and versatile – a model player in today's NBA game.

"He did whatever we asked at a very high level. I loved having him and his family in our program and wish him all the best as his professional career begins."

Mike Krzyzewski deflected attention away from the final game of his 42-year Duke career and thanked his players for reminding him why he will miss basketball despite a Final Four defeat to rivals North Carolina.

'Coach K' was bidding for a sixth NCAA Tournament championship in the last season of his legendary career but fell at the penultimate hurdle.

UNC had beaten Duke in Krzyzewski's final home game and repeated the feat on Saturday in an 81-77 upset of the second seeds.

Remarkably, it was the Tar Heels' 50th win against Krzyzewski's Duke, levelling the 100-game series in its final edition.

Krzyzewski was understandably the centre of attention after the game but sought to instead put his players in the spotlight, insisting: "I'm not thinking about my career right now."

He said: "It's not about me, especially right now. As a coach, I'm just concerned about these guys. I mean, they're already crying on the court, and that's the only thing you can think about.

"Then going into the locker room, I've said my entire career – or when I knew what the hell I was doing – that I wanted my seasons to end where my team was either crying tears of joy or tears of sorrow because then you knew that they gave everything.

"And I had a locker room filled with guys who were crying, and it's a beautiful sight. It's not the sight that I would want – I'd want the other – but it's a sight that I really respect and makes me understand just how good this group was."

It was Duke's seventh loss of the season, all against unranked teams, making the Blue Devils the first top-10 team to lose to seven unranked opponents in a season since the poll was expanded to 25 teams in 1989-90.

But Krzyzewski added: "They did not win tonight, but they came through in an unbelievable fashion."

Indeed, reflection on his feelings after the game was the closest Krzyzewski came to considering the end of his career in front of the media.

"I'll be fine. I've been blessed to be in the arena," he said. "And when you're in the arena, you're either going to come out feeling great or you're going to feel agony, but you always will feel great about being in the arena.

"And I'm sure that that's the thing when I'll look back that I'll miss. I won't be in the arena anymore. But, damn, I was in the arena for a long time. And these kids made my last time in the arena an amazing one."

Predicted lottery pick Paolo Banchero tried his best to extend his coach's career, scoring 20 points and claiming 10 rebounds.

"Being able to go to war with Coach and the team for the whole season, he was so committed to us all year," Banchero said.

"He never made it about him. And you're just proud that we were able to go out and fight, be in a fight with Coach every game.

"You don't get time to think about it right now, but I'm sure, when we look back on it, we're going to be proud that we got to play for him. And he had our back the whole year, had our back every game, put a lot of trust in us, always believed in us."

Mike Krzyzewski's extraordinary 42-year run as Duke head coach came to an end on Saturday, as North Carolina emerged 81-77 victors in the Final Four.

Of all teams, the arch rival Tar Heels were the team to deny Coach K a fairytale finish, just a month after they spoiled the party for his final home game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Meanwhile, UNC head coach Hubert Davis became the fifth head coach to make the national title game in his first year.

The closing exchanges made for a thrilling finish, with North Carolina and Duke trading three-pointers and scoring runs in the final five minutes of the game.

Caleb Love's clutch three and conversion of three free-throws gave North Carolina the ultimate breathing room, and he finished with 28 points. Meanwhile, Brady Manek's timely buckets for 14 points and Armando Bacot's 21 rebounds were critical.

Despite the clutch baskets at the end and Paolo Banchero's double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds, Duke were ice cold from beyond the arc, going five-of-22.

UNC will meet Kansas in the national title game on Sunday, after they rolled to an 81-65 victory over Villanova earlier on Saturday.

David McCormack and Ochai Agbaji were pivotal for the Jayhawks, with David McCormack putting up 25 points and nine rebounds, while Agbaji drained six-three pointers to score 21 points.

Playing without injured guard Justin Moore, the Wildcats were not able to find an early rhythm as Kansas shot out the gate, scoring the opening 10 points of the game and building a 19-point buffer at one stage in the first half.

It was an eerie role reversal of the 2018 national semi-final, where Villanova raced to a 22-4 opening lead on their way to a 95-79 win over Kansas and eventually their third national title.

Kansas were shooting far too well to let it happen a second time, however, making 29 of 54 total field goals and going 13-of-24 from the perimeter.

Mike Krzyzewski's extraordinary 42-year run as Duke head coach came to an end on Saturday, as North Carolina emerged 81-77 victors in the Final Four.

Of all teams, the arch rival Tar Heels were the team to deny Coach K a fairytale finish, just a month after they spoiled the party for his final home game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Meanwhile, UNC head coach Hubert Davis became the fifth head coach to make the national title game in his first year.

The closing exchanges made for a thrilling finish, with North Carolina and Duke trading three-pointers and scoring runs in the final five minutes of the game.

Caleb Love's clutch three and conversion of three free-throws gave North Carolina the ultimate breathing room, and he finished with 28 points. Meanwhile, Brady Manek's timely buckets for 14 points and Armando Bacot's 21 rebounds were critical.

Despite the clutch baskets at the end and Paolo Banchero's double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds, Duke were ice cold from beyond the arc, going five-of-22.

UNC will meet Kansas in the national title game on Sunday, after they rolled to an 81-65 victory over Villanova earlier on Saturday.

David McCormack and Ochai Agbaji were pivotal for the Jayhawks, with David McCormack putting up 25 points and nine rebounds, while Agbaji drained six-three pointers to score 21 points.

Playing without injured guard Justin Moore, the Wildcats were not able to find an early rhythm as Kansas shot out the gate, scoring the opening 10 points of the game and building a 19-point buffer at one stage in the first half.

It was an eerie role reversal of the 2018 national semi-final, where Villanova raced to a 22-4 opening lead on their way to a 95-79 win over Kansas and eventually their third national title.

Kansas were shooting far too well to let it happen a second time, however, making 29 of 54 total field goals and going 13-of-24 from the perimeter.

The fairytale ending for legendary Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski is still alive after a stylish 78-69 win against Arkansas in Saturday night's Elite Eight.

Krzyzewski – affectionately known as 'Coach K' – is in his 42nd and final season in Duke's top job, and is in search of his sixth National Championship.

While his strategy and coaching style has seen Coach K earn stints as the head coach of USA's national team, he is buoyed this season by the presence of three likely first round picks in this year's NBA Draft. All three came to play on the big stage against Arkansas.

Number one pick candidate Paolo Banchero was strong, finishing with 16 points (four-of-11 shooting, seven-of-eight free throws), seven rebounds and a team-high three assists, top-10 pick A.J. Griffin scored an efficient 18 points on seven-of-nine shooting (two-of-three from long range), and late-first round center Mark Williams was a perfect six-of-six from the field to finish with 12 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks.

Duke will play the winner of the clash between Saint Peter's and North Carolina, with the former trying to become the first 15 seed to ever make it to the Final Four.

The next date of Mike Krzyzewski's Duke farewell tour sees him face a familiar foe in Michigan State coach Tom Izzo on Sunday.

A record-breaking sixth NCAA Tournament encounter between the pair was secured after both Duke and Michigan State won their first-round matchups on Friday – Krzyzewski's second seed beating Cal State Fullerton 78-61 while Izzo's number seven outfit scraped past Davidson 74-73.

It is fitting that the final March Madness of Krzyzewski's 42-year Duke career should see him again take on Izzo, with their sixth coaching clash passing the previous benchmark of five.

Until now, that record was held jointly with two other coaching duos: Roy Williams and Bill Self, and Eddie Sutton and Denny Crum.

'Coach K' and the Blue Devils are 12-3 against Izzo's Spartans and 3-2 in the NCAA Tournament, with Duke's most recent March Madness victory in the series coming en route to the 2015 championship.

However, another win for Izzo – himself 27 years in at Michigan State – would conclude both Krzyzewski's bid for a sixth national title and his career, stopping him just short of 100 NCAA Tournament wins; his 98 as of Friday are already a record.

Either way, Izzo is delighted just to get the chance to test himself against one of basketball's greatest names one last time.

"I like the game, I just don't like the record in that matchup over the years," Izzo said. "I've got to be his favourite coach because he's beaten us like a drum.

"I didn't want to look ahead and dream of the matchup, because you get a chance, one more time, to play against maybe the all-time great, as they say about LeBron [James] or they say about Michael [Jordan].

"In the coaching world, the 'GOAT' is the team we'll play, and it's been earned. It's not been given. It's been earned.

"And you know, I'm going to try my hardest to see if we can get one more on the positive side of that thing, but every time we've played it's been a game I looked forward to."

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski revealed his excitement heading into his final NCAA Tournament before bringing an outstanding 42-year tenure to a close.

'Coach K' is leaving Duke at the end of this season, having been the Blue Devils' coach since 1980.

Krzyzewski was denied a 16th ACC Tournament title with defeat to Virginia Tech in the championship game last weekend, but the possibility of a sixth national title remains.

The coach's final March Madness begins with his number two seed facing 15-seed Cal State Fullerton on Friday.

"I'm just going to go for it, and that's what I've tried to do all season long," Krzyzewski said. "I just want to be in the moment. I'm excited."

While Krzyzewski is looking forward to his 'last dance', he acknowledges the emotion around each game is trickier for his Blue Devils players to deal with.

"That's part of the thing this week, is to get them mentally fresh, not just physically fresh," the 75-year-old said.

"There's a lot of emotion with all my stuff, and it's over now. That's a lot for those kids."

The East Regional section of the tournament saw a big upset on Thursday with a 15 seed beating a two seed – Saint Peter's stunning Kentucky.

And Krzyzewski is well aware of the delicate situation Duke find themselves in as they seek to prolong his coaching career.

"Most of the time, they don't realise it's one-and-done until it's done," he said.

Mike Krzyzewski is still struggling to come to terms with the end of his coaching career at Duke after overseeing his final home game on Saturday.

After 42 years, 'Coach K' is leaving the Blue Devils at the end of this season.

A host of celebrities and 96 former players were in attendance for his farewell against rivals North Carolina, although a 94-81 defeat put a dampener on the occasion – at least in Krzyzewski's eyes.

"I'm sorry about this afternoon," he told the crowd in a post-game ceremony, although that apology was drowned out by cheers.

"Today was unacceptable, but the season has been very acceptable. And the season isn't over, all right?"

Indeed, Krzyzewski has already this year delivered Duke their 13th ACC regular season title of his tenure, the first since 2010 and first outright since 2006.

And attention now turns towards the ACC tournament before a tilt at Krzyzewski's sixth national title with the school.

"We're 0-0," the coach said. "We'll be that twice: now and next Sunday, we'll be that again.

"Hopefully, the lessons we learned from 31 games, including especially this last one, will help us in both situations."

However, this game – one of the biggest in basketball – was instead all about a celebration of Krzyzewski.

Reflecting on his long and successful stay at Duke, he said: "We have loved being a part of the Duke family.

"It's hard for me to believe this is over. I'm just going to say the regular season is over."

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