NBA

Raptors Feel Like Home Sweet Home for Bennett

After two lackluster seasons, former first pick Anthony Bennett is feeling comfortable playing back home for the Toronto Raptors.

Jessica Camerato profile picture
Updated 1 year ago on

3 min read

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There’s no place like home for Anthony Bennett, especially when he had been away from it for so long. This season a buyout from the Minnesota Timberwolves has brought the Canadian native to the Toronto Raptors. After moving around the United States for the past six years, it was a welcome return to the place he left at age 16.

In order to pursue a career in basketball, Bennett enrolled at Mountain State Academy in West Virginia. From there, he went to Findlay Prep in Las Vegas, traveling extensively around the country as a teenager.

“Canada wasn’t really known for people really making it out of there, getting a lot of exposure,” he told Basketball Insiders. “If it wasn’t for AAU, I wouldn’t know where I would be.”

Bennett stayed in Nevada for one year of college and became a standout at UNLV. In 2013 the Cleveland Cavaliers drafted him with the No.1 pick. It was only the beginning of several NBA transactions.

Bennett’s rookie season was lackluster. He averaged just 4.2 points and three rebouds while being limited to 52 games because of injuries. By the summer of 2014, Bennett had slimmed down. He underwent surgery to remove his tonsils and adenoids, which helped his breathing on the court.

That August the Cavaliers packaged him in a multi-team trade with the Timberwolves to land Kevin Love. Bennett looked forward to a turnaround sophomore campaign.

That didn’t happen on the Timberwolves. Bennett’s production increased only slightly to 5.2 points and 3.8 boards. He appeared in 57 games and just three as a starter. It was clear he did not fit on his second team in as many years.

The Timberwolves reached a buyout with Bennett in September and he became a free agent. The Raptors inked him to a deal, making his third team his home team. Head coach Dwane Casey described him to the media as “a very talented young man who needs a good opportunity.”

The change of scenery comes after a summer in which Bennett stood out for Team Canada during the Pan Am games. Cory Joseph, his teammate on the Canadian team and the Raptors, has noticed significant progress.

“I think he’s in incredible shape, first of all, and I think mentally he’s right where he needs to be,” said Joseph. “He’s not worried about anything about himself and the success of the team. Everyone saw how well he did this summer with the Canadian team and I feel like people are going to get a chance to see an athlete they don’t know yet.”

Bennett has embraced his new but familiar environment. The proximity to friends and relatives is important to him. He had been living with his mother and sister (he had a “mancave” in the basement, as he called it) during his offseasons until he signed with the Raptors and moved into his own place.

Even small comforts of Canada have helped him feel settled. He is able to find his cuisine of choice throughout the city, especially his favorite dish, jerk chicken.

“Home is definitely Toronto,” he said. “I’m always back and forth (from my house) visiting family.”

Bennett has been traveling from city to city for the past six years chasing basketball. The road through the NBA has brought him back where he began, a place he doesn’t want to leave.
“It’s a business and you’re always on the move,” he said. “I feel a lot more comfortable being in Toronto, so hopefully this is my home for a while.”

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Jessica Camerato is a bilingual reporter who has been covering the NBA since 2006. She has also covered MLB, NHL and MLS. A graduate of Quinnipiac University, Jessica is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association and the Association for Women in Sports Media.

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