Vols are Finalists for No. 1 PF in 2021 Class

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    Back in September, five-star power forward Paolo Banchero released his list of his top nine schools in his recruitment. On Wednesday, he trimmed down that list, and Tennessee made the cut as one of his finalists.

    The 6-foot-9, 235-pound forward from Seattle took to Twitter to release his list of six finalists in a graphic, and the Vols were included along with Duke, Kentucky, Gonzaga, Washington, and Arizona.

    According to the 247Sports Composite rankings, Banchero is the No. 4 overall prospect, No. 1 power forward, and No. 1 recruit in the state of Washington in the 2021 cycle.

    Tennessee has been involved with Banchero for quite some time, and they’ve made him one of their top priorities in the 2021 class. The five-star forward took an official visit to Knoxville back in late October along with five-star point guard Kennedy Chandler. Banchero has also officially visited North Carolina, Kentucky, Duke, and Gonzaga. Arizona is the latest team to offer the five-star, extending an offer to him on Tuesday. That was enough to get them in his top six, replacing North Carolina, Memphis, Georgetown, and Baylor from his original list of nine.

    Rick Barnes and his assistants have visited Banchero several times before the COVID-19 outbreak shut down visits temporarily. Assistant coach Kim English has been the primary recruiter for Banchero for Tennessee.

    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 last spring and summer, and he was a standout during the AAU circuit. In 18 total games with Rotary in April, May, and July of 2019, Banchero averaged 22.7 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 1.8 blocks per game according to D1Circuit.com. 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 last summer and won Underclassmen of the Year in the Nike EYBL.

    According to MaxPreps, Banchero averaged 22.7 points a game for O’Dea High School during his junior season this year.

    Five-star point guard Kennedy Chandler is expected to trim his list of schools down to five in the near future, and the Vols are likely to be included in that group, too.

    Tennessee does not have any players committed to them in the 2021 cycle as of yet, but Banchero and Chandler are just two of several highly-rated prospects the Vols are involved with. Five-stars Jabari Smith, Harrison Ingram, Charles Bediako, and Moussa Cisse are a few others.



    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.