Air Force basketball coach Dave Pilipovich slipped into his office Sunday to find an unwanted surprise waiting for him.
The cover of his new edition of “Basketball Times” featured UNLV’s Anthony Bennett, one of the very players Pilipovich was about to scout.
“I threw that right away,” Pilipovich said.
Bennett – the Mountain West’s leading scorer who will be the biggest individual star to visit Clune Arena in at least a few years – is kind of hard to avoid right now. The freshman, projected as a top-five pick this year by NBADraft.net, has more than 9,000 followers on Twitter. The league’s Nos. 2 and 3 scorers, Air Force’s Michael Lyons and San Diego State’s Jamaal Franklin, have a combined 711 followers.
When Air Force visited UNLV on Jan. 12 – an overtime victory for the Rebels – Bennett had 22 points and 16 rebounds. As UNLV faced a key game against No. 15 New Mexico on Saturday, Bennett had 17 points and 12 rebounds in a victory.
“He looks like Karl Malone and he’s 18 years old,” Pilipovich said.
Bennett’s weakness in the first meeting was his impatience. He looked to shoot immediately most times he touched the ball. Pilipovich said Bennett and several teammates have curtailed that issue and are looking for better, rather than quicker, looks.
Air Force also wore down UNLV, and Bennett in particular in that first game. The 6-foot-8, 240-pound forward from Brampton, Ontario, was visibly exhausted in the second half when the Falcons outscored the Rebels 32-24.
“It was the first time a number of our guys had to guard the Air Force system,” UNLV coach Dave Rice said. “It made it very difficult for us.”
Pilipovich knows Bennett will be in better shape this time.
“Maybe the altitude and the snow and the cold weather will slow them down a little bit,” Pilipovich said. “We’ve got to figure out a way to stop them.”