Five-Star Forward Lists Vols Among Top Teams

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    (Photo via Jon Lopez/Nike)

    One of the top high school basketball players in the country released his list of top teams in his recruitment on Friday, and Tennessee is right up there with some elite programs in men’s basketball.

    Paolo Banchero, a five-star power forward from Seattle, Washington, tweeted out his list of top programs moving forward in his recruitment, and the Vols made the cut. Tennessee joins blue bloods such as Kentucky, North Carolina, and Duke in Banchero’s top nine teams. Others making the list are Memphis, Gonzaga, Georgetown, Washington, and Baylor.

    According to the 247Sports Composite rankings, the 6-foot-9, 235-pound forward is the No. 1 power forward in the 2021 class and is the No. 4 overall prospect in that class.

    Almost a month ago, Banchero announced the five schools he would be taking official visits to see in the fall, and Tennessee will be one of those schools. After visiting North Carolina, Kentucky, and Duke, Banchero will stop by Knoxville for an official visit from October 25th through the 27th. Banchero’s last official visit will be to Gonzaga in January.

    Banchero has a good relationship with Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes already, and he detailed that in a post on USA Today High School Sports. Banchero is running a blog for USA Today High School Sports, and he mentioned being impressed by Barnes in a recent post.

    “I think the coolest conversation I had with a coach recently was when I talked to Coach Rick Barnes from Tennessee,” Banchero wrote.” We just talked about everyday stuff, and then he asked me if I had a girlfriend. I told him yes, and then he said is she cute. Haha!

    “Of course, I said yes, and then he said he was sure she wouldn’t mind me coming to Knoxville, Tennessee. I thought it was cool that we talked about things like that other than basketball. That’s what I like most about getting to know these coaches.”

    In that same post, Banchero discussed the possibility of him reclassifying from the 2021 class to the 2020 class. According to the five-star, there’s a very good chance he makes that move and ends up part of the 2020 cycle.

    “By now, most of you have probably heard that I’m considering reclassifying from 2021 to 2020. I just feel like I’m getting better and better, and in a year I’m confident that I’ll be ready for college,” Banchero wrote. “I have a lot to think about, though, but I’ll keep you guys posted here on my blog.”

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    Tennessee’s main power forward target in the 2020 cycle is four-star PJ Hall out of South Carolina, but the Vols have worked their way into Banchero’s recruitment and now appear to be solid contenders for him. If Banchero reclassifies, UT will be right in contention for him. Even if he stays in the 2021 class, the Vols are legitimate contenders for the five-star.

    On the court, Banchero is a phenom. He has smooth handles for a big man, and he already possesses a variety of offensive skills other than just powering ahead in the paint and finishing at the rim with dunks. He has a good release on his jump shot, and he has the ability to fight through traffic and make difficult shots look easy. On defense, he shows good movement and the ability to guard the paint well. He’s quick for his size and has superb awareness and basketball IQ.

    Banchero played for Seattle Rotary in the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League this spring and summer, and he was a standout during the AAU circuit. In 18 total games with Rotary in April, May, and July, Banchero averaged 22.7 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 1.8 blocks per game according to He shot 49.6 percent from the floor and 77.3 percent from the free throw line on 154 free throw attempts. He posted two triple-doubles and nine double-doubles during the EYBL.

    The five-star won MVP of the NBPA Top 100 Camp this summer and won Underclassmen of the Year in the Nike EYBL

    If Banchero ends up reclassifying to the 2020 class, the Vols will likely push even harder for him. Tennessee has a need for big men to come in and contribute immediately, and Banchero certainly fits that bill.

    Tennessee currently has commitments one five-star prospect and another top-40 player in their 2020 class. Shooting guard Keon Johnson, the No. 1 player in the state of Tennessee, is a five-star, and small forward Corey Walker is rated as a high four-star. Both have pledged their services to the Vols in the 2020 cycle. The Vols are also considered the favorite for five-star guard Jaden Springer in the 2020 class.

    Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.