If Anthony Bennett is truly the top talent in the nation, then maybe it says something about Air Force.
The UNLV freshman went to Cleveland with the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft on Thursday. The pick was a surprise to many, and had to be even more surprising to those who caught their only glimpse of the forward here in town.
In a 71-56 loss to Air Force at Clune Arena on Feb. 13, Bennett scored just eight points with eight rebounds and played just 22 minutes. He spent much of the second half on the bench, though his coach claimed he was healthy.
This is not intended as a knock on Air Force athletes, and the Falcons’ team schemes generally help neutralize some of the advantage of opponents who might be superior athletes, but a true rare talent is generally pretty easy to spot when playing against the service academy. Stephen Strasburg, for example, struck out 17 and threw a no-hitter in a start against the Falcons before going with the No. 1 pick in the MLB Draft. True, the Falcons’ baseball and basketball programs are worlds apart and Strasburg was seen as a once-in-a-generation talent whereas Bennett was seen more as a settle-for-it-in-a-down-year pick, but you see the point that top-shelf talent has a way of making itself apparent against Air Force.
Alex Smith threw for 556 yards and ran for 173 more in two wins against the Falcons while with Utah before going No. 1 to the 49ers. Andrew Bogut made 20-of-24 shots in his final two games against Air Force while with Utah.
Bennett certainly had his moments, and his shooting touch and large frame were easy to see. He did, after all, average 22.5 points and 11.5 rebounds in two Runnin’ Rebels victories in Las Vegas. But for the most part he didn’t dominate. He often seemed out of shape. What he didn’t seem to be was the obvious top talent in college basketball, but perhaps some of that credit needs to go to Air Force.