Thursday, April 12, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Findlay Prep’s Anthony Bennett is now the top recruit on the market.
Bennett, ranked No. 7 overall by rivals.com, is the biggest fish still out there, and really he’s just getting started. A 6-foot-7, 230-pound power forward, he has all five of his official visits ahead of him. They include UNLV, Kentucky, Florida, Oregon and Washington.
Bennett hasn’t been shy about his admiration for the Rebels. He’s attended a few home games this year, seen the packed Thomas & Mack Center and imagined himself playing with close friend Khem Birch, who will be eligible in December.
“Hopefully, everything works out and I get to play with him,” Bennett told the Sun in March. “If it doesn’t, we’ll still be cool.”
Florida has been a front-runner from the beginning, and its position improved Wednesday. Walter Pitchford, a 6-foot-9 forward, is transferring from the Gators to be closer to his ailing grandfather in Michigan. That gives Florida one open scholarship and a need for a big man.
On the flip side, Noel’s commitment gives Kentucky two power forwards and a center in this recruiting class. Coach John Calipari certainly wouldn’t mind adding Bennett to that mix, but with playing time in doubt, it’s possible the feeling wouldn’t be mutual.
Bennett has said he finds this process very difficult. The visits may help, or they could make his decision even tougher.
Talking to basketball analyst Adam Zagoria last week, Bennett said he doesn’t expect to make a decision until early May. Predictions at ESPN Insider have Florida (three votes), Kentucky (two), UNLV (one) and Oregon (one), which is to say nobody really knows.
After Muhammad and Noel ended their much-discussed recruitments on national TV on Wednesday, the focus shifts to Bennett. Just don’t expect him to do anything like shave a school logo into his head.
This will be a much more quiet finish.