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Paolo Banchero hoping for no hard feelings from Italy amid controversial Team USA move

Photo: USA Basketball/Twitter

With all of the rumblings that were formed by the Italian basketball fans against him, Paolo Banchero prefers to only move on as he now represents the stars and stripes.

The Orlando Magic star and the NBA’s reigning Rookie of the Year further elaborated his thoughts about joining Team USA while declining his availability for Italy at the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup in an interview with Ben Golliver of The Washington Post.

“You’ve got to pick one or the other so someone’s going to be left out. Those are a tough decision like I said. I built a relationship with the Italian federation over the years. It was a hard decision but it had to be made, and hopefully it was no hard feelings. I felt like it was a good ending. I feel like respect was shown on both sides,” he said after Team USA’s Friday practice.

Banchero shocked the Italian community upon committing himself to the United States for national contests starting in this year’s World Cup. In the impression of the nation’s basketball federations chief Gianni Petrucci, it was a “betrayal” move from the young forward considering that they already assumed his service as early as 2020 when they helped him acquire Italian citizenship.

Banchero’s eligibility for Italy can be connected to his father, Mario, who is of Italian heritage. 

But his mother Rhonda Smith-Banchero, who played for Team USA in the 1990s, was the ultimate factor in his joining the Americans on international basketball events moving forward.

From the amount of disappointment that Italy absorbed upon this crushing decision he made, it may take a while or even a lifetime for Banchero to finally see the wounds of the basketball nation completely heal.

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