UNLV basketball:

Countdown to tip-off: Bennett shoulders large responsibility for a true freshman

In the week leading up to UNLV’s first regular-season game, the Sun will highlight one Rebel each day. Today: freshman Anthony Bennett

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Sam Morris

UNLV Runnin’ Rebel Anthony Bennett

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UNLV Runnin' Rebel Anthony Bennett

UNLV forward Anthony Bennett dunks during the team's First Look scrimmage Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012 at the Thomas & Mack. Launch slideshow »

The first McDonald’s All-American to go straight to UNLV from high school in 29 years, Anthony Bennett has a lot of weight on his broad shoulders.

Good may be good enough for the Rebels this year, but outsiders are going to expect greatness from Bennett, who’s admittedly shy. Though he’s originally from the Toronto area he’s been a familiar face in the desert from his time at Findlay Prep in Henderson. UNLV fans showed support at many Pilots games and begged him to stay in Las Vegas, and it was Bennett’s commitment that transformed this offseason into a full-blown success.

Bennett likes to shoot 3-pointers, but his 0-for-6 performance behind the line against Dixie State is proof that he still needs work there. With or without that shot, Bennett is a force in the paint and a very difficult matchup for less athletic forwards and centers.

It’s not fair to expect a double-double every night from a true freshman, though that won’t stop anyone from doing just that. As long as his season isn’t a disaster and he can stay healthy Bennett is likely a one-and-done player bound for the NBA, so fans are hoping his transition to the college game is a quick one.

Vitals

Ht	Wt	Yr	Pos.	Major

6-8	240	Fr	F	Undecided

How he got to UNLV

Bennett played the final two seasons of his high school career at Findlay Prep, where he averaged more than 16 points and 10 rebounds in just more than 23 minutes per game as a senior. Ranked as the No. 7 overall recruit in the nation by rivals.com, Bennett chose to stay near his Findlay support system and play with former AAU teammate (and fellow Canadian) Khem Birch by picking the Rebels over Florida and Kentucky.

What they’re saying

“Bennett has a similar skill set to (Mike) Moser in that he’s a double-double threat with 3-point range. Where their game differs is in their physical traits. Bennett, who was a top-10 recruit that UNLV beat out, among others, Kentucky to land, is a burly, 6-foot-8 and a load on the block.”

NBC Sports

"The slight edge goes to the Rebels over the Aztecs mostly because of Bennett, the early favorite for Mountain West newcomer of the year because of his rebounding ability and ability to score in transition."

Yahoo! Sports

"Bennett could end up being the National Freshman of the Year. He's capable of scoring in many different ways, and he is an absolute matchup nightmare for most opponents."

CBS Sports

Rice’s take

“His talent speaks for itself, but what’s equally important is his coachability and his basketball IQ. He’ll be a big part of what we do from Day One.”

In his own words

“I think we already have that chemistry. Everybody’s bonding together, and we’re basically like family. That will show on the court: We’ll make the extra pass, and we’ll cheer everybody on. That’s just what we do.”

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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