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September 20, 2012

Bennett turning heads

The anticipation for Anthony Bennett's inclusion into the UNLV Runnin' Rebel basketball program matches any that we've seen over the years.

And it's not just because he was a McDonald's All-American or the No. 7 rated player in the nation coming out of Henderson's Findlay Prep. The reason is what a player of Bennett's talents can ultimately do.

UNLV was an above average team during the 2011-12 season. By adding Bennett, the Rebels immediately become one of the most talent rich clubs in the nation.

He can do everything and anything on the basketball court. And with his unique power and athleticism, Bennett is already showing that he can turn UNLV into not just a Top 20 team but one that could finish much higher this upcoming year.

Watching the full team workout this week, it was hard for anyone watching to take their eyes off Bennett, who showed off an array of skills, ranging from his patented thunder dunks with both hands to a sweet long distance jumper to a dominating performance on the glass.

Yes, Bennett has all the tools, but he says he's here just to contribute and aid the Rebels in any way he can.

"I'm just trying to contribute to the team as much as I can," a very modest Bennett said. "If it's rebounding, getting up shots, setting screens to get someone open, I'm just here to contribute."

He will be doing a whole lot more than just setting some screens to get a teammate open, despite what he says.

Though, Bennett did acknowledge that his progression at a certain position on the floor could be the determining factor of how long UNLV fans will get to witness this special player. And he would be relying on head coach Dave Rice and assistants like Stacey Augmon to make that happen.

Bennett said, "There's a great coaching staff that is here (at UNLV) to support me if I want to stay here one or stay here four years. I'm here to try and work on my game and progress to a three."

The talent level for Bennett has never been questioned by anyone but his ability to stay healthy during his two seasons at Findlay has shown to be the only chink in his armor. During those two years, Bennett battled back, hamstring and ankle injuries that sidelined him for extended periods.

He stated that he is feeling healthy right now and is working extremely hard with strength and conditioning coach Jason Kabo to stay that way.

Asked what his health this year meant to him, Bennett said, "It's a lot this year cause I don't want to miss any games or anything. I'm going to work on my ankles. My back has been fine, my hamstring has been fine, so I'm not worried about all that. It's just my ankles I need to strengthen up. (Jason) Kabo, the trainer, is working on that right now so everything should be good."

It was a tough summer for Bennett who wasn't cleared by the NCAA in time to play with the Rebels when they travelled to his home country of Canada for an exhibition tour. However, he said he got a chance to watch his teammates online, noting Katin Reinhardt's first exhibition game as a freshman, while and continuing to workout in his hometown of Toronto.

"I went to the gym three or four times a week. Put up some shots and worked on my ball handling, you know trying to stay in shape," Bennett said of his summer.

Any worry that Bennett wasn't going to come to UNLV with anything but his utmost attention and focus can be dismissed.

Bennett is here and he's everything Rebel fans could've imagined.

For more in-depth information, be sure to check out Rebel-Confidential.



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