Commentary

Anthony Bennett owes a lot to mom

McDonald's All-American dreams of reaching the NBA and repaying his mother

Originally Published: March 27, 2012
By Mitch Sherman | ESPN RecruitingNation

HENDERSON, Nev. -- The cadence in his voice slowed, and Anthony Bennett's face turned momentarily solemn when he spoke last week of his mother.

Here in the Nevada desert, he plays basketball for renowned Findlay Prep and attends the Henderson International School. Edith Bennett remains 2,000 miles away, although he'll see her this week in Chicago before the McDonald's All-American Game (9:30 p.m. ET Wednesday, ESPN).

She worked two jobs to support Anthony as a child in greater Toronto. Still does, in fact, rising before 6 a.m. for an eight-hour shift as a nurse at a rehabilitation hospital. A 30-minute break follows before eight hours on staff at a mental institute.

Anthony Bennett, Edith Bennett, Danielle Bennett
Courtesy of Edith BennettAnthony Bennett's mom, Edith, has worked two jobs to support her family.

Five days a week and every other weekend.

"At times," Edith said, "I get tired."

She's home in Brampton, Ontario, by 1 a.m., and out of bed to restart the routine less than five hours later.

In the years before Anthony left Canada to attend Mountain State Academy in West Virginia in 2009, then moved to Findlay Prep outside Las Vegas a year later, he often stayed alone at home while his mother worked the long hours.

"It's hard," he said. "I just want to pay her back for everything she's done."

A single mother, Edith moved to Canada from her native Jamaica in 1980. Anthony, her youngest of three children, was born in 1993. Sometimes, while she attended college in preparation for her nursing career, Anthony went without lunch at school. She had nothing to send with him.

"He was satisfied with what little I had," Edith said. "He never complained. If he asked for something and I didn't have it, he said, 'OK,' because he knew when I had it, he would get it.

"He's a good kid."

There's no hiding their admiration for each other.

Anthony, a 6-foot-8, 230-pound power forward rated No. 7 in ESPNU 100 and third among unsigned prospects before the April signing period, said he hopes to advance through college quickly to remove the financial burden from his mother.

One year, if he can make it work.

"As long as it takes, I'll stay," he said. "But if I have a great year, I might be leaving."

Skills on display this spring

Anthony Bennett has a busy spring. After the McDonald's game on Wednesday, he's set to play in the National High School Invitational Thursday to Saturday in Bethesda, Md. Findlay Prep and its roster loaded with high-major talent enters as the No. 1 seed among eight teams.

Then it's the Nike Hoop Summit, April 7 in Portland, Ore., followed by the Jordan Brand Classic, April 14 in Charlotte, N.C.

He'll hardly have time to consider his college options, reduced to UNLV, Oregon, Washington, Florida and Kentucky. Bennett said he plans to sign after the Jordan event. The signing period opens April 11.

"I don't want to rush things," he said. "I want to think it through. With so many coaches and players leaving, you don't know what's going on."

Bennett returned from a hamstring injury during the main segment of Findlay's season to average 15.9 points and 10 rebounds. With limited experience -- injuries slowed him last year as a junior, too -- Bennett's best basketball appears ahead.

"He's a special player because he's so explosive athletically," said Michael Peck, the fifth-year Findlay coach. "You kind of cringe when he dunks, because it's like, 'Oh, no, that rim's coming down.' He's just so powerful."

Bennett displayed his power in a scrimmage last week. With Washington coach Lorenzo Romar courtside, Bennett finished two straight transition opportunities with huge slams. Parts of the building shook.

Even Michigan coach John Beilein, on site to watch Findlay guard Amedeo Della Valle, raised his eyebrows.

"We want guys to be impact players at the next level," Peck said. "That's what we're trying to do here. As good as Anthony's skill set is, let's face it, in college, there are going to be guys who can do what he does.

"But if he goes somewhere for one year and we're watching him on TV in the NBA, I'm not going to be shocked."

A way to repay her

Bennett said he realized last year that basketball offered him a future -- and a method to help his mother. He exploded on the recruiting scene last summer during a dominant stretch with his Canadian AAU team, CIA Bounce.

"When I first went to prep school, I was just a regular baller," Bennett said. "But pretty soon, people said I could be great. This year, I wanted to dominate."

Anthony Bennett
Courtesy of Findlay College PrepAnthony Bennett's No. 1 goal is to reach the NBA and make sure his mom doesn't live with the burden of working two jobs anymore.

It didn't happen as he hoped. The hamstring injury kept Bennett out of several big games, including a January win over Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas and premier prospect Shabazz Muhammad.

"To be honest, it was really hard for me," Bennett said. "I was happy and cheering for my team, but off the court, I was mad."

The time off pushed Bennett to capitalize on these final chances as a high school player in the spring.

His mother plans to attend each of the showcase events. It motivates him further.

Clearly, Bennett inherited his athleticism from his mother. Edith starred in track and field as a teenager in Ewarton, Jamaica. She ran sprints and participated in the high jump.

She also played netball, a derivative of basketball in which the participants occupy specific spots on the court and must pass or shoot after a limited time with the ball. Edith played in Jamaica for her school and later for a team sponsored by the telephone company.

It spawned her love of basketball -- and, ultimately, Anthony's.

He began playing as a young child in Toronto's Jane and Finch neighborhood, a crime-riddled area. Violence marred the basketball courts at night that served as Anthony's playground in the daylight.

The Bennetts moved to Brampton, where Anthony had no access to basketball for several years. He began playing again at age 13.

"Everybody keeps telling me I've only scratched the surface of how good I can be," Anthony said.

College coaches say it all the time, according to Peck. They tell Edith, too, visiting her in Canada, with Anthony in Nevada. Kentucky's John Calipari came. So did Romar. And Billy Donovan of Florida.

Bennett and his mother, in separate interviews, mentioned Kentucky first when talking of Anthony's options, although they're not offering many other clues about his impending decision.

"I like Calipari," Edith said. "I like how he talks. He just puts it out on the table and tells you how it is."

She also likes the opportunity ahead of her son. Edith said she wants Anthony to graduate from the college he selects.

If he leaves early for professional basketball, the coaches told her that he could return for his degree. Anthony promised he would do it.

"I have no problem with that," she said. "He has his dreams, and he wants to follow his dreams."

Asked about his dream to help her live without the burden of two full-time jobs, she pauses to collect her thoughts.

"I tell him not to pressure himself," Edith said. "He's a kid. He's not supposed to take all that responsibility on his shoulders."