Anthony Bennett may have posted his final double-double in a Rebels uniform, but that doesn’t mean he’s done producing for UNLV.
As the one-and-done freshman gets set to hear his name called during Thursday’s NBA Draft, the UNLV program and the current coaching staff are just beginning to reap the benefits that come from producing a high-profile lottery talent like Bennett.
Bennett is a candidate to go No. 1 overall on Thursday, and that’s a recruiting pitch that will grab the attention of just about any high school prospect. I wrote about the effect Bennett’s UNLV tenure will have on recruiting in this column from March, and it’s played out according to plan so far. That column was posted as the Rebels were getting ready to head into the NCAA tournament. Less than a week later, they suffered a disappointing upset loss in the first round of the tournament.
And yet, despite that defeat, they got a commitment from Class 0f 2014 star Dwayne Morgan just six days later. It’s hard to say how much Bennett’s individual success impacted Morgan’s decision, but it couldn’t have hurt. Like Bennett, Morgan is an elite talent who undoubtedly aspires to play in the NBA someday, and now he knows that’s possible with a stop at UNLV — because Bennett has paved the way.
Incoming freshman Chris Wood, who played with Bennett at Findlay Prep, says he can already see the effect Bennett is having on recruiting.
“Yeah, I think it’s already happening,” Wood said. “I think the recruiting process will only get bigger here with [Bennett] being one and done just like that. I think him going to the league will help bring in a lot of recruits. We already got one in Dwayne Morgan, so hopefully that can continue.”
It’s not just the players who are being swayed by Bennett’s success. Findlay Prep coach Todd Simon guides multiple Division I prospects through the recruiting process every year, and he says that Bennett’s rise to stardom makes UNLV more attractive from a coach’s perspective as well.
“I’ve had AAU coaches and high school coaches talk to me and say what a great decision Anthony made in going to UNLV,” Simon said. “It’s rare for a freshman to put up the numbers he put up and have that kind of success right away. Coaches see that and they want their players to have that kind of success. So that opens everyone’s eyes to the fact that UNLV is a good situation for talented players. That’s
everything in recruiting.”
So regardless of whether Bennett is draft first, second, or sometime shortly after that, Rebels fans should sit back and enjoy it. The UNLV program will be.
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