Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Friday, March 29, 2013 | 3:09 p.m.
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UNLV freshman forward Anthony Bennett will announce his plans for next season during a press conference Monday at 3 p.m. in the Mendenhall Center, the school announced Friday afternoon. Listed by most projections as a top five pick, a source confirmed Bennett would forego his remaining eligibility and declare for June’s NBA Draft.
CBS Sports first reported Bennett's departure Sunday, though it's been expected by most people around the program since Bennett stepped on campus.
In his one season, Bennett led the team in points (16.1 per game) and rebounds (8.1) while earning first-team all-league, Mountain West Freshman of the Year and Wooden Award finalist honors, among others. Most recently Bennett and UNLV senior guard Anthony Marshall were named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches All-District 17 teams. Bennett was on the first team, Marshall on the second.
Bennett is the first player in program history to come to UNLV out of high school and leave for the NBA after one season. Shawn Marion played one season at UNLV (1998-99) before leaving and getting drafted ninth overall in the NBA Draft, but he started his collegiate career at Vincennes University, a junior college in Indiana.
Barring something unforeseen, Bennett will be the first first-round Rebels pick since Marcus Banks (No. 13 overall) in 2003 and possibly the highest pick since J.R. Rider went No. 5 to the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1993. The Rebels have had four all-time top-five picks: Sidney Green (No. 5) in 1983, Armen Gilliam (No. 2) in 1987, Larry Johnson (No. 1) in 1991 and Rider.
The Rebels’ season, and Bennett’s UNLV career, ended last week in the Round of 64 with a 64-61 loss to Cal. Bennett had a lot of production late in that loss, finishing with 15 points and 11 rebounds for the 12th double-double of his career.
The NBA Draft is in New York on Thursday, June 27. The draft lottery, when the 14 teams that don’t make the NBA playoffs will find out the order they draft via ping-pong balls, is on Tuesday, May 21.
For UNLV, Bennett’s departure is far from a surprise and should help in the future. Bennett started the season as a fringe first round or early second round pick, according to most predictions. His vault into the lottery — the top 14 picks — and likely the top five could be huge for UNLV on the recruiting trail. The Rebels’ coaching staff can go into any home in the country and show that they’re capable of developing NBA talent.