TORONTO – Fame, fortune and media attention is a given when you’re chosen the first overall pick in the National Basketball Association draft but Canadian Anthony Bennett insists his level-headedness is due in large part to his upbringing.
“I like to stay focused. If I have a goal, I’m going to accomplish it, somehow, someway. No matter how long it takes,” said Bennett during an interview alongside his mother Edith on The Morning Show.
The University of Nevada Las Vegas freshman made history last weekend by becoming the first Canadian to be selected first-overall in the NBA draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Bennett began his hoop dreams playing on the courts in Toronto’s Jane and Finch neighbourhood before his single mother moved him and his two siblings to Brampton, a suburb just west of the city.
Edith Bennett admits Anthony was a self-starter as a child and didn’t require much encouragement to reach his basketball goals.
“I just talk to him and luckily they listen, when they set a goal they follow their goal,” said Edith. “They see me working hard.”
When Anthony was growing up, Edith, who is a nurse, needed to buckle down two jobs to provide for her family and that work ethic set the foundation for her son’s success on the hard court.
“While I’m at work, they’re at home and we communicate by phone, to let them know what to do and what not to do,” Edith said. “The thing is, they are the heroes, because they listen.”
The 20-year-old player joins an elite group of players selected in the top spot of the draft that includes NBA legends Lebron James, Magic Johnson, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Last Thursday, Bennett was in Toronto to meet with students at the Jane and Finch Boys and Girls Club to offer a few words of wisdom.
“The most important thing is to stay in school and finish school. If you have a dream you can accomplish it,” Bennett told an enthusiastic audience.
As far as his game is concerned, dealing with pressure that comes with being drafted number one is the least of his worries.
“I’m a good kid, I don’t mess with all the trouble and stuff,” he said. “It’s just a game of basketball to me.”
Next year he will join fellow Canadian Tristan Thompson who was picked fourth overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2011 draft.
-With a file from Andrew Russell