Was Anthony Bennett the best player in college basketball this season? The best pro prospect? Maybe. But it shouldn?t have been such a shock to national commentators that the 6-foot-7 UNLV product?who averaged 16 points and 8 rebounds for the Rebels as a freshman after starring at Findlay Prep?was the top pick in an understocked NBA draft on June 27. And it should be no surprise if Bennett has a big impact on his new team, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
For Bennett, it was the culmination of a decade of hard work?and a resounding answer to everyone who said he was too short, too heavy, too fragile or too ? Canadian to be the No. 1 pick. It was also a seminal moment for Canada basketball, which saw Bennett become its first native son to be drafted first overall. With Kansas-bound Andrew Wiggins, another Canadian, the odds-on favorite to go No. 1 next year, Canucks could go back-to-back at the top of the draft, announcing the country as a new basketball powerhouse.
But for Rebel fans, the most important part of the equation will be the bounce that the UNLV program gets from producing the first pick in the NBA Draft for the first time since 1991. Coach Dave Rice was a good recruiter before this?after all, he did get Bennett to commit?but imagine his effectiveness now that he can tell high school prospects that he helped develop the top overall pick in the draft. Rice should be able to milk that and make sure the talent pipeline continues to flow into the desert for years to come.
Not a bad legacy for a kid from up north, eh?