Update: This story originally identified Sidney Green as being drafted No. 5 overall in 1993, last Rebel to go in the top 5. That honor belongs to J.R. Rider. Green was drafted fifth in 1983.
At this time next year, UNLV forward Anthony Bennett will still be playing basketball. Only he’ll do so while making more money than you and I combined.
The versatile freshman has pro scouts drooling over his potential. At 6-foot-8 and at least 240 pounds, Bennett averages about 20 points and nine rebounds per game with an inside-out attack. He’s at his best bullying people in the paint, but Bennett can stretch the defense out to the 3-point line, which is where he’ll likely have to play more often as a pro.
Barring an injury, Bennett projects to be a top-five pick in June’s NBA draft. If that happens, he would be the first Rebel to go that high since J.R. Rider was drafted No. 5 overall in 1993. Shawn Marion was the most recent Rebel to go in the top 10, getting picked ninth in 1999.
Bennett, who played his final two years of high school at Henderson’s Findlay Prep, came into college with high expectations. Thus far he has matched those and then some, and if UNLV is going to make a deep run in the 2013 NCAA tournament, he’s the guy most likely to carry the team there. That’s a lot of pressure for a freshman, but anyone who’s seen Bennett in person can tell he’s got the broad shoulders to support it.