Toronto na­tive ready for hoops re­boot with Raptors

Catch­ing up with Jane and Finch prod­uct An­thony Ben­nett, who signed with his home­town side af­ter play­ing along­side fel­low T.O. na­tive Cory Joseph

Richmond Hill Post - - NEWS - by Tina Robin­son

An­thony Ben­nett is a pow­er­ful six-foot-eight-inch and 245-pound bas­ket­ball player who was se­lected by the Cleve­land Cava­liers as the num­ber one pick in the 2013 NBA draft, af­ter com­plet­ing a stel­lar and sin­gle year for the sto­ried Run­nin’ Rebels of the Univer­sity of Ne­vada, Las Ve­gas. A fa­mil­iar story to be sure, un­til we find out that Ben­nett is … from Toronto? Ben­nett was the first of two lo­cal play­ers se­lected as the top draft pick in back-to-back years, which an­nounced to the world that the city is a bud­ding bas­ket­ball hot­bed. Af­ter an in­jury plagued two of his NBA sea­sons, Ben­nett signed with the Raptors and headed home to get ready for the new NBA sea­son that kicks off on Oct. 28 at the Air Canada Cen­tre.

Af­ter a stint with the Min­nesota Tim­ber­wolves, how does it feel to be back in Toronto?

You know, back home fam­ily, friends, all the great fans here in Toronto and even in Canada … it’s just a great op­por­tu­nity.

You were the first se­lec­tion in your draft year, and it seems like a com­ing out party for Cana­dian hoops in gen­eral. How did it feel?

Def­i­nitely a huge step­ping stone in my ca­reer be­cause I’m from Canada. You know, it’s a lot of work, and I’m work­ing ev­ery day to get bet­ter.

When you were start­ing out play­ing ball around Jane and Finch, who were your idols?

I al­ways watched Vince Carter, you know, be­cause he played here for a while. I used to watch his games, and you know, every­thing about his game is just so crazy, so he kind of in­flu­enced the whole com­mu­nity to play bas­ket­ball.

What’s the mood of the team at train­ing camp so far?

Ev­ery­body is on the same page, you know, win­ning at­ti­tude. Ev­ery­body wants to get bet­ter and for the most part ev­ery­body’s fo­cused: the play­ers, coach­ing staff, we are mak­ing sure ev­ery­body’s on the same page so that we can reach our goal.

How do you feel you fit in best with the team on the floor?

You know, ev­ery time I go out there, I just try and do all the lit­tle things well: run the floor, re­bounds, defence, top on defence. Of­fence will take care of it­self.

You’ve had a few in­juries early in your ca­reer. Are you healthy now?

You know, it’s been pretty nice. I’ve had the whole sum­mer to work out, and I haven’t re­ally had that in the past … with the other in­juries. I feel in shape, con­di­tioned with all the Team Canada stuff I’ve been do­ing, and I’m re­ally

ex­cited for this sea­son com­ing up.

How im­por­tant is it for you to fos­ter the young tal­ent in the GTA and get them to fol­low your lead?

Just pretty much help­ing them stay outta trou­ble, you know, with any­thing, be it with school or sports or boys and girls clubs. But for the most part, per­son­ally for me, it was bas­ket­ball and the boys and girls club that had me stay out of trou­ble in a rough neigh­bour­hood. There’s dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions for ev­ery­body, so stay­ing out of trou­ble is the best thing.

How do you like to spend your free time in Toronto?

I mean, since I’ve been back, I’ve been spend­ing it pretty much with fam­ily. I haven’t re­ally had a chance to do that in the past, be­cause I’ve been in Cleve­land, but I’m here in Toronto now, and it’s only like a 30-minute drive to my mom’s house, so I’m al­ways over there.

How incredible is that to have two Toronto guys, you and Cory Joseph, play­ing for the Raptors?

Def­i­nitely a great ex­pe­ri­ence. A great feel­ing for both us, you know. He was pretty ex­cited once every­thing hap­pened with him, but we’ve been play­ing on Team Canada with each other. He’s real cool, down to earth.

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