words Ryan Jones / portraits Jared McMillen
These pairings are not unheard of, but they are rare enough. Finding two of the top-10 high school seniors in the country on the same team simply doesn’t happen all that often. But, if it’s going to happen in 2011, it figures to happen at Findlay Prep.
The private hoops factory on the outskirts of Las Vegas has compiled a stunning array of talent since it came into existence six years ago. Two of the latest—and potentially greatest—are Brandon Ashley and Anthony Bennett, a pair of 6-8 forwards who have Findlay looking loaded once again. The fact that both Ashley and Bennett are consensus top-10 seniors means people like us are more likely to pay attention, but they assure us it’s not a two-man show.
“There’s so many talented dudes on this team, it’s hard to say that me and Anthony are better than anybody else,” says Ashley. “It’s just a lot of dudes playing well and really coming together.”
Indeed, with top-100 classmates Winston Shepard and Dominic Artis and a handful of other DI prospects on the roster, the Pilots are as deep as any squad in the country. But team-first humility aside, Ashley and Bennett are the game-changers on this squad. We’ll start with Ashley, a 6-8, 220-pound Oakland native who signed with Arizona last summer. The Wildcats know it won’t be easy replacing Lottery pick Derrick Williams, but with Ashley set to arrive next fall, they’ve got a chance.
“I think my strength is my versatility,” Ashley says. “I’m considered a power forward at the moment, but I don’t want to restrict myself to any one position. I think my strength lies in my ability to do so many different things.”
Long and athletic, if still a bit raw, Ashley could end up with a Williams-like college career.
Anthony Bennett could be every bit as good. At 6-8, 230, Bennett boasts similar versatility but is a more physical player than Ashley. That’s not the only place the teammates differ. While Ashley was a relatively early commit among the top players in his class, Bennett at press time was keeping his options wide open; as of late October, he still had nine schools on his list. “I’m just going to sit back and watch these teams play,” he said, “and then I’ll make up my mind.”
Wherever he ends up, Bennett doesn’t figure to struggle with homesickness. The Brampton, Ontario, native is the latest to make the move from the Great White North to Nevada, following Myck Kabongo (Class of ’11, now at Texas) and former Longhorns-turned-NBA Draft picks Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph to Findlay. “Myck told me they needed another Canadian,” Bennett says. “I wasn’t sure if he was joking.”
There’s nothing funny about this Findlay team, at least for opponents. Teamed with Ashley to form a virtually unguardable frontcourt duo, Bennett echoes his teammate’s sentiments about the quality on the rest of his squad. “We’re all just going hard, pushing ourselves in practice, looking out for each other,” Bennett says. “All these guys, I just look at them as my brothers.”
If so, Ashley and Bennett are the big brothers, making sure the family name is maintained. As Ashley says, “With the talent on this team and such a great coaching staff, we should not lose a single game.”
If so, Ashley and Bennett are the big brothers out front, making sure the family name is maintained. As a program, Findlay exists to produce major college and NBA alumni, and to hang banners. Both these guys are on pace to meet the former goal. As for the latter? As Ashley says, “With the talent on this team and such a great coaching staff, we should not lose a single game.”