Seattle Rotary had their best season since the inception of the modern-day Elite Youth Basketball League in 2010. Rotary accumulated a 10-6 regular season record in 2018, riding the talents of emerging superstar and top-five recruit Jaden McDaniels. Rotary returns super-sophomore Paolo Banchero, and the 6-foot-8 do-it-all forward will be looking to keep the program in stride. Their rotation will feature a variety of local talent, and while they don't have the 'star' power of other units, Banchero's presence on the court should keep them competitive on most games. The 10-man lineup features five underclassmen and four members of the Eastside Catholic (WA) high school basketball program.
The return of Banchero (247 No. 6) gives Rotary a top-ten recruit for the second straight year, and they'll be relying on him to do a bit of everything. Although Banchero deferred to McDaniels as the primary option offensively, he still found a way to put up super impressive numbers for a high school freshman. In 2018, Banchero averaged 13.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.1 blocks in 21 games, and common wisdom says that he will improve those numbers across the board as the featured player in Rotary's offense. Banchero has a developing skill-set and improving athleticism, but there's just something about his game that just works. He runs the floor with ease and always seems to be in the right spot. Expect Banchero to put up some major statistics en route to contention for Underclassmen of the Year honors. Banchero was a bit taken aback by his introduction to the EYBL last season, and he expects to be much more comfortable in 2019.
"The speed of the game and the competition," Banchero said about the difference between high school and EYBL. "Having this period with USA Basketball has helped with that difference, because the work we’re putting in now with the people that are here, will propel us all forward heading into the summer.:
Rotary sophomore Paolo Banchero (247 2021 No. 6)
Four juniors and three sophomores will make up the Rotary backcourt, led by 2021 guard Shane Nowell. The younger brother of Washington star Jaylen Nowell - also an alum of Rotary - Nowell (247 No. 56) is a developing star on the national level. Nowell was named All-3A First Team after averaging 12.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 2.5 steals per game during the 2018-19 high school season for Eastside Catholic. Nowell is physical, attacking guard that can beat you inside or out. He shot 48 percent from the floor and 33 percent from distance for Eastside, and improving the latter statistic is a point of emphasis for Nowell as he enters his first season on the circuit.
West Linn (OR) product Micah Garrett provides Rotary with another sizable shooting guard. Garrett lit up this year's Les Schwab Invitational, averaging 23.5 points over four games. He capped it off with 34 points on 15-for-19 shooting, turning in his most productive offensive game to date at the high school level. Garrett suffered an ankle injury in February and will be looking to regain the momentum he was building over the winter. The backcourt continues with four players who will battle for significant minutes; juniors Bijon Sidhu (6-foot-5) and John Hart III (6-foot) and sophomores Nolan Hickman (6-foot-1) and Leo DeBruhl (6-foot). Hart, Hickman and DeBruhl are all standouts locally in Washington, while Sidhu plays a big role in Vermont Academy's rotation.
Banchero will rarely leave the court for Rotary, and for good reason. He is clearly the team's best player, and his presence on the court figures to make everyone else better. Rotary only rosters two other frontcourt players, which means Nowell, Garret, and Sidhu will certainly see time at the small forward position. Rotary might not have depth in the frontcourt, but they do have a storyline. Sophomore forward JT Tuimoloua will go to work in the paint for Rotary, and the 6-foot-6, 275-pound behemoth doubles as the No. 1 football player in America. The powerful defensive end recruit is built like a truck and has arguably the most powerful frame on the circuit. Tuimoloua (247 2021 football No. 1) will struggle with the length and athleticism of EYBL competition but his ability to overpower people should make for equal advantage. Tuimoloua averaged 13.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game while shooting 51 percent from the floor for Eastside Catholic. Tuimoloua's Eastside teammate Chika Nduka averaged 5.4 points and 4.6 rebounds during the high school season for Eastside, and the 6-foot-4 swingman will take on a similar glue-guy role for Rotary.
Repeating last season's success will be a tall task, but a return to Peach Jam definitely isn't out of the question. With four players hailing from Eastside Catholic, Rotary figures to have advanced team chemistry as they head into the vaunted three-session Nike EYBL schedule. Banchero has the makings of an absolute superstar, and if he is on point, Rotary will surprise.