Paolo Banchero Addresses New Positional Challenge With Team USA

Perhaps the player facing the biggest challenge on Team USA’s roster is Rookie of the Year Paolo Banchero.

Not only did he get selected to play for his country in the FIBA World Cup after just one season in the NBA, but he will be playing in a position quite unfamiliar to him.

The 20-year-old will be playing center alongside Jaren Jackson Jnr. as he is the same height as JJJ.

Much of Banchero’s first season in the league was played at point guard for the Orlando Magic, so he says it has been quite a challenge making the switch to five.

“It’s been a huge adjustment for me,” Banchero told Yahoo Sports. “Obviously that’s not what I’m planning on doing in Orlando. I’ve just been trying to accept the role and being the best I can at it. The biggest thing for me is doing whatever I can to find my way on the floor. I really don’t care what it is, even if it’s not scoring. Having to defend, having to rebound.”

Earlier this month when discussing Banchero’s new role, USA head coach Steve Kerr said,“One of the things we really found in [2021] in the Tokyo Olympics was having a 5 who can push the ball and transition and create plays is very difficult for FIBA teams to handle. So he can play some 4, as he showed, but he’ll play plenty of 5 as well.”

In 2021, veterans Bam Adebayo and Draymond Green shared the center position, so Banchero and Jackson have big shoes to fill.

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For the team as a whole, Kerr says having five warm up games was beneficial to get used to different rules and style of play.

“We needed all five games to get used to the rules,” Kerr said on Wednesday after the team’s first practice in The Philippines. “The FIBA rules are different for us. The pace of the game is different. It’s more physical. We needed every bit of experience because we know how good these teams are in the tournament.”

No doubt this crop of young, rising stars will be up for the challenge.

USA’s first game in the FIBA Basketball World Cup will be against New Zealand at 8:40am ET on Sunday and can be watched on ESPN2.