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Insider

The ascension of Anthony Bennett

1/10/2012

Like many kids in today’s game, it took Anthony Bennett (Brampton, Ontario/Findlay Prep) a while to settle into a comfort zone, but once he did, he never looked back.

Last summer, Bennett played in a pair of events -- The Pangos All-American Camp and NBA Top 100 -- that set the tone for his ascension up the charts.

“I started pushing the rock more,” Bennett said. “When I did that everyone was looking at me as a 6-8 forward that could dribble and shoot it too.”

In June of 2011 he was ranked No. 46 overall and now is ranked No. 7 overall. Candidly speaking, Bennett said the success he had caught him off guard.

“I didn’t expect all this was going to happen,” Bennett said. “Last year I was hurt and it had to do with my knees and ankle and I was out for five months. When AAU started up I wanted to just go hard and it worked out well.”

It’s worked so well that staying in school four years -- Bennett promised his mother a degree -- would be an upset.

“I hear people say I’m one-and-done or two-and-done,” Bennett said. “I don’t listen to that. I have to be ready and well developed. I’m going to college to get my education. If I leave early, I’ll probably go back to the school to do some online classes to finish up.”

There isn’t a shortage of suitors who would like to help him earn a degree. Bennett has Washington, Florida, UNLV, Oregon and Kentucky on the board. UConn and West Virginia were amongst the most recent schools to be handed their pink slips in his recruitment.

“I trimmed it to five because that’s the number of official visits I’m going to take and I’m going to take all five before I make my decision,” Bennett said.

With a more manageable number, Bennett’s TV viewing is going to be easier.

“I see how the coaches coach and see how they let their players play,” he said. “Most schools have a structured system and I don’t really like schools like that. The schools in my top five get to play freely and run up and down.”

The good thing, from a college coach’s perspective, is that there’s been few surprises with Bennett. He’s been true to his word and his timetable, which put the coaches' minds at ease, heading into the middle part of his recruitment.

Head coaches worked him hard in the fall and now are probably a month away from ramping up the one-on-one time again.

“[Kentucky's John Calipari] came out twice during the evaluation period,” Findlay Prep coach Mike Peck said. “[Florida's Billy Donovan, UNLV's Dave Rice and Washington's Lorenzo Romar] were out in the fall. Anthony was very clear that he wasn’t doing anything early. He meant it and we reassured all the schools that he wouldn’t do anything early. Once that was clear, they realized they’d go through the process during the year and do what they can coming on the road and seeing him. They felt more at ease when that was pretty clear.”

The uncomfortable aspect of Bennett’s recruitment lies ahead. Following his five visits, four programs are going to be on the backend of bad news. Happens all the time, but when a domino like this falls during the spring, it’s not a nice feeling.