Anthony Bennett is the next big thing out of Canadian basketball.
Actually not that big; primarily a power forward, he was listed at Nevada-Las Vegas as 6-8, but that appears generous. He knows his height is a bit of an issue heading into Thursday’s NBA draft.
“Some people are saying I’m a tweener,” Bennett said during a visit with the Charlotte Bobcats Saturday. “I’m not too tall for a power forward and not too fast for a (small forward). But I just feel like if I go out and play hard it will eliminate all that.”
If Bennett isn’t gone before the fourth pick, the Toronto native figures to be in the mix for the Bobcats’ selection. They need frontcourt scoring and rebounding, and he excelled at both in his one season at Nevada-Las Vegas. He averaged 16.1 points and 8.1 rebounds as a freshman before turning pro.
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Bennett couldn’t work out for the Bobcats because he’s recovering from surgery on his left shoulder to repair a torn rotator cuff. He was recently cleared to do some light shooting. He would miss summer league with the injury, but should be ready to play by August.
This was the last of his five visits with teams at the top of the draft. He’s also been in Cleveland, Orlando, Washington and Phoenix. What would he offer?
“I’m versatile – I can play inside and out,” Bennett said. “Once I get my jump shot consistent, that will be a huge advantage for me playing the stretch (power forward). I can play pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop. I’ll be a great fit wherever I go.
“I feel like my best position right now is the stretch 4, but if I have to play some (small forward) I’ll play it.”
Back in 1991 the Charlotte Hornets drafted another undersized power forward from UNLV with the top pick. Larry Johnson became a huge star in Charlotte. Bennett is so frequently compared to Johnson that he went on YouTube to check him out. Then he asked UNLV assistant coach (and Johnson’s college teammate) Stacey Augmon about the parallel.
“He said it could be true but ‘(Johnson is) a hard worker so you better live up to that hype,’ ” Bennett said. “I think we basically do the same things. But his motor was just crazy. I’ve got to get that.”
Bennett is part of an upswing in Canadian basketball, based primarily in Ontario. Power forward Tristan Thompson is becoming a star for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Toronto’s Andrew Wiggins, who’ll play for Kansas next season, could be the top pick in the 2014 draft. Bennett played a season of AAU ball with Wiggins, and says the 6-8 small forward is as good as he’s billed.
“It’s crazy. He’s super-talented, super-athletic and a really humble guy,” Bennett said. “He works hard. Just a great guy and a great player.”