Tuesday marks a homecoming for Anthony Bennett, the newest member of the Maine Red Claws.

Along with the rest of the team, he’s heading to Mississauga, Ontario, for the annual NBA G League Showcase, not far from his hometown of Brampton in suburban Toronto.

He’s expecting a few family members and some friends for Maine’s two games, Thursday afternoon against Reno and Saturday afternoon against Memphis.

Tuesday also marks another milestone for Bennett. Exactly one year earlier, the Brooklyn Nets waived him. They were the fourth NBA team to take a flyer on the first player chosen in the 2013 draft, by the Cleveland Cavaliers, whose other No. 1 overall picks include Andrew Wiggins, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James.

A 6-foot-8-inch, 245-pound forward, Bennett played briefly in Turkey last spring after leaving the NBA, then went to training camp with the Phoenix Suns and joined their G League affiliate in Northern Arizona before the Red Claws traded for him in the last week of December.

“When we traded for him, we wanted him to come in with zero expectations,” said Remy Cofield, the Red Claws’ general manager. “You’re a young kid. You’re still trying to find your way. Let’s maximize what you have, and maybe something comes out of that.”

Bennett, suffering from a cold, played seven minutes in his Maine debut on New Year’s Eve as the Claws beat Lakeland, 111-101. On Sunday afternoon, against a few of his old teammates from Raptors 905, he played 20 minutes, scored five points on 1-of-6 shooting (he made both of his free throws), blocked two shots, grabbed four rebounds and had an assist and three turnovers.

“He plays hard,” said Red Claws point guard Kadeem Allen. “When he’s with us out there on defense, we’re more connected. He talks well, communicates well. He just plays hard. That’s expected from a guy who’s trying to get back to where he was.”

Although both Bennett and Allen are 24, Allen actually is the older of the two, with a birthday coming next week. The Cavaliers drafted Bennett after his freshman year at UNLV.

“I was shocked,” Bennett said of being the No. 1 overall draft pick. “I heard I was going sixth or seventh, but everything was pretty much up in the air. Ten seconds before the pick was announced, I found out.”

Bennett spoke before Sunday’s game, near a stairwell leading up from the locker rooms at the Portland Expo, and twice was interrupted by old teammates greeting him warmly. His voice has a lilt of Jamaica to it. That’s where his parents are from.

Because of shoulder surgery, Bennett never worked out for any of the NBA teams who had high draft picks. They interviewed him instead, and Cleveland clearly came away impressed.

“When I was picked No. 1, definitely it was a crazy joy, but my biggest thing was to focus on the rehab,” Bennett said. “They said not to get any sweat on the stitches for three months, so I couldn’t really do anything. I just had to chill.”

As a rookie, Bennett appeared in 52 games, averaging 4.2 points, 3.0 rebounds and 12.8 minutes. After the season, as part of a three-team deal that involved Kevin Love going to Cleveland, the Cavaliers traded Wiggins and Bennett to Minnesota, where his stat totals (57 games, 5.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 15.7 minutes) were slightly better.

Over the next two seasons, Bennett played for Toronto (19 games) and Brooklyn (23 games), as well as for their G League affiliates.

“I think it’s a testament to how hard it is to make it in the (NBA) regardless of what pick you are,” said Nathaniel Mitchell, a Raptors 905 assistant coach and a Toronto native who first met Bennett when the player was 15. “He was young. He’s still got a lot of time left.”

According to published reports, Bennett collected more than $16 million in salary over his four years in the NBA. The Red Claws are his fourth G League team.

“We had a great talk before the game,” Mitchell said. “He’s doing well and he really likes it here.”

Red Claws Coach Brandon Bailey said Bennett has fit in well with Maine’s staff and players and has proven himself a quick learner, particularly on defense.

“Even in the short time he’s been with us, I see vast improvement from him on the defensive end of the floor,” Bailey said. “We’re really excited about him and excited about our ability to help him, too.”

As of Friday, any NBA team can sign Bennett to a 10-day contract. The fact that he remains available means teams aren’t willing to give him another chance until he shows more signs of fulfilling the potential that made him the top overall selection.

“I feel like I’ve just got to go out there and play with a lot more confidence,” Bennett said. “It’s been a tough couple years, but I’m still fairly young.”

Cofield said he thinks Bennett can be a valuable player in the second half of the season for the Red Claws.

“There’s still time,” Cofield said. “There’s still potential there. But he’s going to have to put in the time and the effort, and I think he knows that.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH

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