Duke’s Banchero is working to assert itself with “less finesse”

DURHAM, NC (AP) – Everyone knew that Paolo Banchero had the size and abilities to be a top NBA prospect before he ever played at No. 2 Duke. The big freshman has been working on getting even better at using that combination to overmatch opponents.

Banchero has lived up to expectations as the 247sports No. 2 ranked newcomer behind Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren. He is a reliable goal scorer from the perimeter and in the paint. He has the versatility to hit the boards and lead the break.

Banchero, a candidate to become the No. 1 overall draft if he walks the one-and-done route, regards his biggest wins as “just playing stronger, less finesse.”

“It was a big thing that coach (Mike Krzyzewski) was on me about in the preseason and early on: using my frame and imposing my will, getting to the basket, making mistakes and just being dominant,” Banchero said after Tuesday’s victory against Georgia Tech.

SIZE: 6-10, 250 pounds

STATISTICS: 17 points, 7.5 rebounds per. match while shooting almost 49% from the field.

STRENGTHS: He has shown a reliable midrange play along with the ability to post defenders and absorb contact in the paint. ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla called Banchero “a modern Carmelo Anthony with three levels of scoring ability.”

“He does not want to be the best athlete in the June draft,” Fraschilla said, “but like Anthony, he gets to his sweet spots on the floor.”

WEAKNESSES: Banchero needs to get better from 3-point range (32.4%), while Fraschilla pointed to another area for improvement in his decision-making with the ball. Banchero leads Duke with 29 turnovers compared to 30 assists.

The goal now is to better use his size and strength – especially when defended by smaller players – to get to his places or to the fault line – where he has attempted five or more free throws in seven out of 13 games.

“I think I’ve taken a step,” Banchero said. “I do not think I’m quite there yet.”

PROJECTION PROJECT: Lottery.

Some other NBA perspectives around the Atlantic Coast Conference:

MATTHEW CLEVELAND: The 6-7 rookie in Florida State has athleticism and height, while he averages 9.9 points off the bench. He is an option for the first round, but must develop an outside shot after starting year 1 for 13 (8%) on 3-points.

CALEB LOVE: Second time in North Carolina can play both guard positions and has made significant progress over the course of the week, especially in scoring (15.6, up from 10.5 last year), shot percentage (0.447, up from 0.316 ) and 3-point percentage (.435, up from .266). He is an opportunity in the second round that could climb.

DEREON SEABRON: North Carolina State’s 2nd year red shirt is a name to watch with its unexpected rise. The 6-7 wing averages 19.7 points and 10.1 rebounds with athletics and the ability to attack the edge, including at least 32 points in victories vs. power-conference enemies.

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Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at https://twitter.com/aaronbeardap

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