Anthony Bennett is one of the biggest recruits in the history of the UNLV program because of his high national ranking (No. 7), his ties to the program and his ability to come in and elevate the program right away.
The five-star power forward from Brampton, Ontario, who played his high school ball at Findlay Prep in Las Vegas, regularly attended UNLV's home games during its 26-win season.
"I felt a great relationship with the coaches," Bennett said. "I went to a lot of games at UNLV and it felt like a second home."
And the Rebels fans returned the favor.
"The fans at UNLV came to a lot of my games,” Bennett said. “They're very passionate about their Rebels and they've been very supportive to me.”
When you combine the Rebels’ incoming class, led by Bennett and ESPN 100 SG Katin Reinhardt (San Juan Capistrano, Calif./Mater Dei), with the return of forward Mike Moser and the additions of transfers Khem Birch and Bryce Jones, it’s easy to see why Rebels fans are excited.
Bennett, who is a scoring threat at all times, brings tremendous versatility and already is close with Birch, whom he played with on the Canadian national team. And that will undoubtedly help make his transition to college easier.
Coach Dave Rice runs an up-tempo style that allows his players to display their talent within his system and maximize their abilities.
"[Rice] told me he would utilize my versatility,” Bennett said. “For example, I can get a rebound run with it or go inside against a smaller player or outside against a big man."
He puts the ball in the basket in many different ways. When defenders close out too hard on Bennett, he is fluid enough with his dribble to beat them off the bounce. In the post, he uses his 6-foot-8, 230-pound frame to dominate in the paint thanks to his strength, wingspan and explosiveness. Plus, his ability to shoot 3s will be utilized in many two-man games to create pressure on the defense and open the floor for his teammates.
"At UNLV, he will be able to fully utilize his versatility, as their style of play is not only similar in tempo to ours at Findlay Prep, but it gives versatile players the freedom to play multiple positions." Findlay Prep coach Michael Peck said. "Just look at what Mike Moser did this past year and how he was utilized. I see the same opportunities for Anthony.”
Defensively, he is capable of fronting the post or at least being three-quarters on the high side in a denial position. Bennett is also mobile enough to defend the high-post area or hedge out hard on ball screens and sprint back to his man or rotate to the open man.
Overall, Bennett will be a key piece to UNLV’s season no matter what, but if he focuses on his conditioning to maximize his athleticism and improves his midrange game, the Rebels are that much closer to being a national power.