UNLV Basketball: Top Recruit Anthony Bennett Declared Eligible by NCAA

Mick AkersAnalyst IJuly 27, 2012

Mar 26, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; McDonalds High School All American forward Anthony Bennett (22) does a dunk in the dunk contest during Jam Fest at the Gerald Ratner Athletic Center for the 35th McDonalds All American Game.  Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE
Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

After weeks of playing the waiting game on whether or not the biggest recruit to come to UNLV in 20 years can play, the NCAA finally declared high school All-American Anthony Bennett eligible for the 2012-13 college basketball season on Thursday.

Bennett first got the talk of his eligibility going with this tweet:

Everything's a GO !! We Live

Not too long after the tweet was the news confirmed by long-time UNLV beat writer, Ryan Greene, when he reported (per VegasSeven.com) the news was confirmed by UNLV head coach, Dave Rice.

Rice told VegasSeven.com:

We're excited for Anthony, but we're also very excited for our team," Rice said. "A lot of credit goes to (compliance director) Eric Toliver and (student-athlete academic services director) David Jackson for their hard work in the waiver process.

Bennett, the Rivals No.7-ranked senior of 2012 becoming eligible is huge news for the Rebels, as he will be as big of an impact player on the court for UNLV as they have, alongside returning forward Mike Moser and largely unheralded incoming USC transfer, guard Bryce Jones.

Although Bennett is eligible to play in the upcoming season, there is a slim chance the 6'7", 230-pound forward will play with the Rebels in his home country of Canada when UNLV embarks on a exhibition tour (per Las Vegas Sun) that schools get to partake in once every four years.

Bennett is the biggest part of the ESPN No. 7-ranked recruiting class of 2012, in addition to incoming freshmen, Katin Reinhardt, Demetris Morant, DaQuan Cook and Savon Goodman, to go along with incoming transfers, former All-American big man, Khem Birch and former UConn Husky, Roscoe Smith.

The preseason hype has the city of Las Vegas feeling like it's in a time warp, back to the days when the legendary Jerry Tarkanian had the Rebels running the town. For a better part of two decades, Tarkanian made the Rebels one of college basketball's powerhouses and led UNLV to its only national title back in 1990.

On the heels of a 26-9 record a year ago, and the returning slew of players including Moser as well as guards Anthony Marshall and Justin Hawkins, added to by the high-profile newcomers, there is buzz about UNLV being a top 5 preseason-ranked team heading into the upcoming season.

The buzz has translated to huge season tickets sales (per Las Vegas Review-Journal) for the Rebels, as UNLV looks to return to being a national powerhouse and a perennial Final Four team once again.