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Former O'Dea standout Paolo Banchero declares for 2022 NBA Draft

The 6-foot-10 forward is widely projected as a top-three pick after a stellar freshman season at Duke

Photo by Kyle Terada, USA Today

Former O'Dea standout Paolo Banchero is declaring for the NBA Draft after a standout freshman season at Duke. 

In a draft announcement video posted by the program Wednesday, Banchero, who is in the conversation for the top overall pick, thanked his teammates, coaches and the program he spent 10 months, saying Duke has prepared him for the professional ranks.

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

The decision to go pro after just one season in college was widely expected, even though Banchero took advantage of new NCAA Name Image Likeness rules to make money through marketing deals.

With athleticism and polish atypical for his size and strength, the 6-foot-10, 250-pound forward has been in the conversation for the top overall pick and is widely projected as a top-three pick. CBS Sports and Bleacher Report have Banchero going No. 2, while ESPN and CBS project him at No. 3 in the latest mock draft.

His name has been appearing in 2022 mock drafts since he was in high school, when he was a McDonald's All-American and consensus top-5 recruit in the country out of high school, checking in at No. 2 for Rivals and 247 Sports and No. 4 per ESPN. 

(RELATED: Retracing Paolo Banchero’s Seattle high school basketball rise: ‘It’s how I imagine people talked about LeBron James’)

Banchero is coming off of a stellar freshman season for the Blue Devils, averaging 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists on the year. He led the Duke to a 32-7 record, its first outright ACC regular season title since 2006 and a Final Four appearance in head coach Mike Krzyzewski's final season. 

He's only the second-ever basketball player from the state of Washington to play for Duke, joining Mercer Island grad Quinn Snyder (1985), now the head coach of the Utah Jazz.

The Associated Press third team All-American is widely seen as the next in a line of great basketball players from Seattle. In high school, he led O'Dea to a 3A state championship as a sophomore and state runner-up finish as a junior. He did not play his senior season after it was shortened and postponed to the spring in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Banchero is the second Washington high school product to declare for the NBA Draft, joining LSU's Tari Eason, a former Garfield standout, who declared in late March.

The NBA Draft takes place June 23 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. The draft lottery is May 17 and will determine which franchises own the first 14 picks.