Sports Paolo Banchero joins Duke's Mark Williams, will enter the...

Paolo Banchero joins Duke’s Mark Williams, will enter the NBA Draft

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DURHAM, NC – ACC freshman of the year and potential No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick Paolo Banchero made the official announcement Wednesday that he will not return to Duke for his sophomore season.

Banchero averaged 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists during the 2021-2022 season while leading the Blue Devils to an NCAA Tournament Final Four appearance in Mike Krzyzewski’s final year as head coach.

Banchero’s departure was the least unexpected of the offseason moves for several Duke players that could be taken in the June 23 NBA Draft. The Seattle, Washington, native is projected as a top-three overall pick with some projecting him as high as No. 1 overall. Duke’s last No. 1 overall pick came in 2019 after the New Orleans Pelicans selected Zion Williamson.

“Playing on some of the biggest stages in front of the best fans in the world with my brothers, I couldn’t ask for anything more,” Banchero said in a released statement. “It was really a blessing. To Coach K, it was an honor to be a part of your final season. Thank you for pushing me every single day and expecting nothing but the best out of me. It has always been a dream of mine. to play at Duke, and it has always been a dream of mine to play in the NBA. Duke has prepared me for that on and off the court. I’m excited to announce that I’ll be entering my name in the 2022 NBA Draft. It has been a great journey and I’m blessed to be a part of The Brotherhood for life. “

Banchero joins sophomore Mark Williams, who on Monday became the first Duke player to declare for the NBA Draft.

The 7-footer from Virginia Beach averaged 11.2 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.8 blocks during the 2021-2022 season, was named the ACC defensive player of the year and was a finalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year. He is projected as a mid- to-late first-round pick.

On Tuesday, Michael Savarino, the grandson of Hall of Fame coach Krzyzewski, entered the transfer portal.

Savarino, who leaves the Blue Devils as a graduate transfer, rarely came off the bench during his career at Duke unless the game was decided, averaging 1.1 points in 11 games this season. Savarino is the son of Debbie Krzyzewski Savarino, the oldest daughter of Krzyzewski and his wife, Mickie. Debbie Savarino is an assistant athletics director at Duke.

Coach K retired after 47 years as a coach at the end of the season after leading Duke to the Final Four. Jon Scheyer, 34, was named his successor before the season began.

MORE: Kentucky’s national player of the year will be back

Duke forward Joey Baker will return for his fifth season as a Blue Devil in 2022-23 after receiving surgery to repair a left hip injury per team release last week. Baker was Duke’s lone senior this past season and will utilize the extra year of eligibility granted to him due to COVID-19.

Freshmen Trevor Keels and AJ Griffin and junior Wendell Moore will make NBA Draft decisions soon but have yet to make formal announcements.

The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NBA Draft is Sunday at 11:59 pm Players have until 11:59 pm on June 1 to withdraw and retain their college eligibility.

David Thompson is an award-winning reporter for the USA Today Network covering NC State and Duke athletics. He can be reached at dthompson1@gannett.com, at 828-231-1747, or on Twitter at @ daveth89.

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