Rebels basketball:

UNLV’s Bennett emotional as he officially declares for NBA Draft

Rebels freshman expected to go in top 10 of June’s draft. “I won’t be wearing a UNLV jersey anymore but I’ll always be a Runnin’ Rebel for life,” he said

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Stephen Sylvanie / Special to the Las Vegas Sun

UNLV’s Anthony Bennett announces Monday, April 1, 2013, that he is leaving for the NBA Draft.

Updated Monday, April 1, 2013 | 4:20 p.m.

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UNLV's Anthony Bennett, left, with coach Dave Rice announced Monday that he is leaving for the NBA Draft.

Anthony Bennett sat down at a table upstairs in the Mendenhall Center on Monday afternoon as a UNLV freshman. He stood up as a former Rebel.

“I’m here to announce that I’m declaring for the 2013 NBA Draft,” Bennett said while sitting next to UNLV coach Dave Rice.

Las Vegas has been expecting this news since at least November, yet it wasn’t easy for the man delivering it. Bennett said he made his decision about a week ago but was still emotional in the days leading up to his announcement. His first words came out through a shaky voice as Bennett fought back tears.

“As you can see I have mixed emotions about this,” Bennett said. “It’s not the easiest decision I’ve made in my life but I’m pretty happy about it.”

The freshman made his UNLV debut against Northern Arizona with 22 points on 9-for-13 shooting and seven rebounds. He scored in double digits the first 17 games, vaulting up mock draft boards all the while.

“We were in constant communication with NBA personnel,” said Rice, who added that every NBA team had been to at least one UNLV game or practice. “Anthony had come to us from Findlay Prep as a very good player and was leaving here with an opportunity to be a very, very high draft pick.”

Bennett said he hasn't yet hired an agent. Mike George, one of the co-founders of CIA Bounce, Bennett's AAU team, recently left the program to become an NBA agent, so he's the clear frontrunner.

Most projections have Bennett in the top five. He’s the first Rebel to leave early for the NBA Draft since Shawn Marion in 1999. Marion, though, transferred to UNLV from a junior college, making Bennett the first player in program history to make the jump after coming to UNLV straight out of high school.

“I won’t be wearing a UNLV jersey anymore but I’ll always be a Runnin’ Rebel for life,” Bennett said.

Bennett led the team in points (16.1 per game) and rebounds (8.1) this season. His production stated to dip in conference play, when opponents had more tape to study and made it a priority to contain him. Bennett was also slowed by a shoulder injury at the end of February.

However, he bounced back in the Mountain West tournament, scoring 42 points on 16-for-22 shooting in the first two games and scoring all 11 of UNLV’s points in the first five minutes against New Mexico before notching just four the rest of the way. The Rebels lost that tournament finale and then got knocked out of the NCAA Tournament less than a week later against Cal in the Round of 64.

That was the Rebels’ fourth straight first-game exit in the tournament and Bennett won’t be around to help UNLV try to snap that streak next season. It’s still possible the Rebels could be without Mike Moser, too. The junior forward wasn’t present for a 2013-14 team meeting Sunday night.

“He’s still exploring his options,” Rice said. “Mike and I will sit down and talk when he gets back.”

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UNLV freshman Anthony Bennett smiles as he recalls his experiences during the past season with his teammates during a press conference on Monday afternoon at UNLV where he announced his intention to enter the NBA draft, April 1, 2013.

Moser was expected to return from Portland Monday evening. If Moser decides to get feedback from the NBA, his application deadline is April 10, and the league has five days to respond. Moser then must decide by April 16 whether or not to keep his name in the draft pool. The NBA actually gives players until April 28, but a recent NCAA rule change moved its requirement date up to the day before the spring signing period, which starts April 17.

For Bennett, these are the important dates: May 15-19 (NBA Draft combine in Chicago), May 21 (NBA Draft lottery), June 27 (NBA Draft in New York City). From now until then he will be picked apart and dissected by every team in the lottery. His size (6-foot-8, 240 pounds) and offensive versatility are the reason teams are so interested. The common detractions are his defense and consistency.

“I know it’s not going to be easy but I’m ready to learn and work hard and also support the family,” Bennett said.

Bennett said his mother, Edith, told him to “do what’s best for me and do what I felt was right.” Based on all the feedback from NBA personnel this was the logical decision. And while the Rebels must replace his production, it doesn’t hurt to have a one-and-done player drafted high and playing in the NBA.

“The thing that excites me is for the next 10 to 15 years in the NBA, every time it says Anthony Bennett, it will say Anthony Bennett — UNLV,” Rice said. “And that speaks volumes for what he’s meant for this program.”

Even 20 minutes after the press conference, after all the interviews and most of the pictures were done, Bennett was still fighting back tears while hugging Carlos Lopez-Sosa and Khem Birch, the two teammates in attendance. Bennett said he knows it won’t be easy, something he’ll find out first hand soon enough.

“It’s been my dream to play for a team in the NBA, but everything just hit me now, like it’s the real world,” Bennett said.

After talking with Birch, Bennett started to head for the exit and what lay ahead. Before he left, Bennett turned around and lofted a crumbled up paper towel from about 10 feet away to the bottom of an oversized wastebasket.

Always end on a make.

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

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  1. This was no surprise whatsoever. I'm wish him luck in the NBA. He made the right decision. Take the money and run. The Kevin Ware injury yesterday sealed the decision if he hadn't already made up his mind.

  2. this is a weak draft this year . he is smart to come out .just hope he takes his money and saves it and uses it wisely so he doesn't up on the espn 30 for 30 program about players going broke . it is not easy making an nba team . players are not retiring like they use to . he will probably be in the teams d-league to improve his defense before he plays in the nba

  3. @dlharris - If he goes in the top 5, then the odds of him going to the D League are slim. The five worst teams have minimal talent, and he'd be one of the top eight or nine players. He should get around 20-25 minutes per game as a rookie.

  4. Comment removed by moderator. Off Topic

  5. I really really wish this one and done thing was eliminated because although he had in my eyes a decent year I believe he would have had a great year his sophomore year but I get it "its all bout the Benjamin's ". Good luck AB.

  6. I think we will always wonder how good he could have been if this was an era where players stayed for at least two -three years. He had some monster performances and also some very quiet and uninspired times as well. That is what you normally get with a freshman. What an awesome talent. Will really enjoy watching his development in the NBA. As he matures and learns to play harder he will be a fantastic pro. Sorry to see the Beast go but absolutely the right decision.

  7. But what about his university education?

  8. Good Luck AB, with what MM went thru this year & Phillips said it best, Kevin Ware's injury sealed the deal. I read on Yahoo Tark didn't make the H.O.F. but Rollie did. WTF is wrong with this picture?

  9. UNLV doesn't need head cases like him anyways. They should have not recruited him in the first place if they knew he was one and done. He was very inconsistent and lazy the whole season to be a top 5 NBA pick and had alot of mental lapses (hence head case). As for Tark not making the hall of fame, it goes to show the corruption in the NCAA.

  10. Thanks for coming to UNLV AB. You've definitely helped rid of some notion that going to a non-power conference won't help you get drafted. I think some people don't understand how hard it is when the other team has you as there top priority. Just work hard and you'll be on top in no time.

  11. Good luck Bennett, you're not ready for the NBA but the money is too hard to say no to when you have no money.

  12. I wish Anthony the best in the NBA. Personally, I do not think he is ready for the NBA. Needs alot of work on his skills. He played very lax on the defensive end, and for a player of his size, did not even come close to being a dominant force inside.

    It's easy to understand what NBA scouts see in him. Good size, very athletic, runs the floor well. And, EVERY coach in the NBA thinks they can take a player like AB and work with him on his skills.

    For AB, no real reason to stay in college. He can go to the NBA and make millions of dollars to play basketball. No having to go to class. No having to worry about money. Just play the game he loves.

    From a basketball standpoint, I think he would benefit from 1-2 more years in college. But, staying will not help him at all with regards to his draft status. Wish him the best, and hopefully he can have a successful career in the NBA.

  13. Whether or not he's "ready" for the NBA, it was a good thing for UNLV to land this "one and done" player. I hope this is the beginning of an avalanche of "one and done" players! Major programs have to deal with this possibility, why shouldn't UNLV?! Perhaps we should hire a coach who not only understands how to recruit them, but also how to coach/motivate them during their short time with the team? Oh wait, we have Livengood as our AD, never mind...I was dreaming again. LMAO

  14. Good luck young brother thanks for wearing the UNLV uniform.
    Weak draft or not he still a top 10 player in any draft and as he grow,get stronger and get more basketball experiences he going to be a real good pro we saw a kid with natural talent alone and still learning.

  15. To say he is not "NBA ready" is silly. Obviously the NBA thinks he is ready. Things have changed. The NBA does not have to have a polished superstar out of college anymore. If you are young and possess uncoachable traits, like a rare combination of size and athleticism, not to mention a great shooting stroke then they are all over it.
    The college game and the NBA are vastly different and the NBA likes to mold players themselves, espeically since they have the D league now. They can take more chances on players.
    When you are a lottery pick, let a lone a high lottery pick, you should always go.

  16. somewhere i her dave chappel saying im rich

  17. Why not develop your skills and get paid millions at the same time?

  18. I just gave my personal opinion on AB. He has alot of weaknesses in his game. And, in the NBA, there are plenty of players his size with great athleticism. AB did not show much of a willingness to play defense. He did not dominate the boards like a player with his combinatin of size and athleticism ought to have been able to do.

    NBA teams draft based on FUTURE potential. The irony with this philosophy, is very few lottery picks end up staying long term with the team by whom they are drafted. If the player turns into as top quality player, but the team remains uncompetitive, the player typically leaves to go to a place where he can win. If the player does not live up to the potential, he usually gets traded before becoming a free agent, to a team that sees said player as being able to help them win.

    I hope AB has a great career in the NBA. Just do not think he is ready for the grind of an 82 game season. But, only time will tell, and I do not blame him at all for leaving UNLV. He is projected to be a Top 5 pick, and remaining at UNLV would in no way improve his stock in the draft.