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Top NBA Draft prospects have ties with Washington

by IAN BIVONA
Sports Reporter | June 22, 2022 5:04 PM

BROOKLYN, NY - Ahead of today’s 2022 NBA Draft, the state of Washington has ties to two of the top prospects - Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren and Duke’s Paolo Banchero.

Banchero committed to the Blue Devils in August of 2020, choosing Duke over finalists Washington, Gonzaga, Tennessee, Arizona and Kentucky. He was the No. 1 power forward in the class of 2021 according to 247 Sports, and the No. 3 overall player in America.

As a star at O’Dea, the six-foot-10 brought home the Gatorade Washington Boys Basketball Player of the Year award his junior year and took the No. 11 seed Fighting Irish to the 2018-19 3A State Basketball Championship game, where they defeated No. 2 seed Mt. Spokane 70-39 for the 3A state title.

The O’Dea alum averaged 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.1 steals and shot 47.8% in his freshman season on the Blue Devils. Banchero played a significant role in leading Duke to the program’s 17th Final Four appearance and racked in numerous awards along the way.

Banchero picked up a consensus second-team All-American nod, Atlantic Coast Conference Freshman of the Year, first-team All-ACC, Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA West Regional, three consecutive ACC Freshman of the Week awards and more.

Holmgren, who committed to the Bulldogs in 2020 and starred in his freshman season of 2021-2022, and Banchero, who is from Seattle and attended O’Dea High School, are both projected to be among the top three picks in this week’s draft. Both athletes only played one season of college basketball before entering their names into the NBA Draft.

The seven-foot Holmgren chose the Bulldogs out of the likes of Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio State, Georgetown, Memphis and North Carolina during his recruiting process. He was a former high school teammate of former Bulldog Jalen Suggs, who played for Gonzaga from 2020-2021 before being drafted by the Orlando Magic in the first round.

Holmgren surpassed his former teammate as the highest-rated recruit to ever sign with Gonzaga, being the top-ranked recruit in the class of 2021 by both ESPN and 247 Sports. He and the Bulldogs advanced to the program’s seventh straight Sweet 16 appearance, tied for the fourth-longest streak in NCAA history.

In his lone season in Spokane, Holmgren averaged 14.1 points, 9.9 rebounds, 3.7 blocks, and .8 steals in 26.9 minutes per game. Some of the hardware he brought home included nine West Coast Conference Freshman of the Week awards, All-WCC first team and WCC Defensive Player of the Year, third-team AP All-American and a finalist for both the Naismith Defensive Player and Karl Malone Power Forward awards.

The two met on the court early in the 2021-2022 season, with Banchero’s 21 points leading the Blue Devils to an 84-81 victory over Holmgren’s Bulldogs in Las Vegas. This game was merely a preview of their NBA careers to come, as the duo could be the top two picks in the 2022 draft.

Ian Bivona may be reached at ibivona@columbiabasinherald.com.

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