In one of the most shocking NBA Draft moments in recent memory, former UNLV forward Anthony Bennett was selected first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday.
Bennett had mostly been projected in the mid-lottery by most mock drafts, but in the end the Cavaliers couldn’t pass up on his combination of explosive athletic ability and offensive polish.
Bennett averaged 16.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game in his one season at UNLV, and he was one of 10 players invited to attend the draft from the official green room, but almost no one expected him to go first overall. Even Bennett seemed taken by surprise, but he was visibly excited to hear his name called, as he pumped his fist before heading to the stage to meet with NBA commissioner David Stern.
“Being the No. 1 pick has a lot of names to it, but I just feel like it’s the game of basketball,” Bennett said on ESPN’s telecast shortly after being drafted. “So I’m gonna go out here, work hard, encourage my teammates and just do what I can.”
“It’s just a great honor right now,” he continued. “I’m speechless.”
Bennett appears to be entering an ideal situation in Cleveland. Normally, the No. 1 pick is going to a bad team with little hope for immediate success. But Cleveland already has quality building blocks in place, including All-Star point guard (and fellow former No. 1 pick) Kyrie Irving. The Cavaliers went 24-58 last season, but they could be in store for a quick turnaround and a playoff push in 2013-14.
Bennett becomes the 14th UNLV product to be selected in the first round of the draft, and the second to go No. 1 overall (Larry Johnson, 1991).
UNLV coach Dave Rice weighed in via his official Twitter account, offering congratulations to Bennett and his camp: “Congrats to our #1 pick Anthony Bennett. Well deserved by AB! Great day for the Bennett family, the Runnin’ Rebels, UNLV & LV community!”
Read more NBA draft coverage on RunRebs.com.