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Nearly five years ago, Anthony Bennett began his one-year college career with a near perfect performance against the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks in UNLV’s Thomas and Mack Center.

Scoring 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the field, Bennett led the Rebels to a 92-54 victory with 22 points, seven rebounds and a pair of blocks in just 20 minutes. Now having bounced around the NBA, with stops in the NBA G League and Turkey, Bennett spent the week training at the school he began his ascent against.

Still just 24 years old, Bennett quietly signed a non-guaranteed deal with the Phoenix Suns a week ago, entering training camp as an afterthought despite being taken as the No. 1 overall pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2013 NBA Draft.

“I definitely have had my share in four years, then went overseas to Turkey to finish out the season,” Bennett said following Friday’s final practice at Northern Arizona. “I have seen the best of both worlds. It is a blessing to be able to play in the NBA with all these great guys.”

Bennett repeated those words, a blessing, when describing the situation presently in front of him following a tumultuous run so far in the NBA.

Traded as part of a package for Kevin Love in 2014, Bennett ended up bought out by the Minnesota Timberwolves 13 months later. Signing with his hometown Toronto Raptors a week later, Bennett became the first No. 1 pick to play in the then NBA D-League before again being waived before the season ended.

Ending the 2015-16 season without a team, Bennett moved to the Brooklyn Nets last summer with another assignment to the G League coming before his release in January. Moving to Turkey to play for Fenerbahce, his time overseas lasted roughly four months before a numbers crunch on non-Turkish born players left him released again.

With his conditioning and passion questioned as he flowed from team to team, Bennett said he’s learned from the experiences he has been through.

“Once you have your routine, you just stick to it,” said Bennett, adding he understands that the sport is a business. “Every morning, cardio, weights, just try to get your body right. Your body is the most important thing. If that fails, it is going to be a tough season.”

Now with Phoenix, potentially destined to play for the Northern Arizona Suns of the G League, Bennett’s arrival comes as Jay Triano enters his second season as the team’s associate head coach.

The head coach of the Canadian national basketball team, Triano stands as the one to oversee Bennett’s best basketball in recent memory. Averaging 6.8 points and 5.0 rebounds, second on the team, during Canada’s four-game at one of three FIBA World Olympic Qualifying tournaments in the summer of 2016, Bennett’s comfort with Triano has aided in his pursuit of a turnaround for his career.

“Every summer I have played with him, he has told me pretty much rebound and run and everything will fall into place,” Bennett said, as he has looked to Triano to learn the system and style of play the Suns want. “I listen to him, trust him, it’s just a blessing to be here with Coach Triano as well.”


Sports Reporter

Cody Bashore serves as the beat writer for Northern Arizona University basketball and football in addition to covering high school sports around Flagstaff for the Arizona Daily Sun.

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