ORLANDO, Fla. — Paul Banchero has insisted for weeks that he is the top prospect in the NBA draft.
The Orlando Magic agreed with him.
The No. 1 pick in Thursday’s draft delivered the first slight surprise when the Magic selected the Duke forward with the No. 1 overall pick — after weeks of speculation, Auburn’s Jabari Smith or Gonzalo Added Chet Holmgren could be at the top of Orlando’s roster.
“Honestly, I can’t believe what just happened,” Banchero said after hugging his mother, former WNBA player Rhonda Smith-Banchero.
Banchero averaged 17.2 points and 7.8 rebounds in his lone collegiate season and was an Associated Press All-American. There were cheers from the crowd at the Amway Center, Banchero’s new home, when NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced the Magic’s scheduled start just after 8 p.m.
It didn’t take long for the Magic to make an official announcement. Banchero will travel to Orlando and is scheduled to officially welcome him at his new home on Friday.
Silver is a graduate of Duke University. In the chairman’s tradition, he gave Banchero a handshake and a warm hug after the new No. 1 show donned a magic hat and took the stage to celebrate his big moment.
This is Orlando’s fourth No. 1 pick. If history is true, Banchero will have a long career in this league.
The Magic drafted Shaquille O’Neal with the No. 1 overall pick in 1992. Chris Webber was Orlando’s No. 1 overall pick in 1993, and he was traded that night to Penny Hardaway and a string of future picks that culminated in Vince Carter and Mike Miller. In 2004, the Magic selected Dwight Howard with the No. 1 overall pick.
Miller has his fingerprints on this draft, too: He’s been working with Banchero in recent weeks to prepare him for his NBA grind.
Now, it’s Banchero’s turn to be the most valuable rookie after Orlando decided to draft him over two other touted No. 1 candidates — Smith and Holmgren.
Banchero also became the 13th straight player to be selected first overall after just one year in college.
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