The Halifax Rainmen are no doubt counting their blessings that Tony Bennett decided to return for another season.
The six-foot-one guard electrified Metro Centre crowds on the weekend as the Rainmen opened the Premier Basketball League pre-season with a pair of victories.
With a franchise-high crowd of 6,780 watching on Saturday, Bennett paced the Rainmen with 26 points and five assists in a 101-97 win over the Manchester Millrats. He was even better yesterday, piling up 28 points and nine helpers in a 108-90 win over the Quebec Kebs before 2,681.
“I’m glad I came back and I think I’m gonna be here for a couple of more years,” said Bennett, who averaged a team-best 19.4 points in 12 games last season and eschewed lucrative contract offers in Europe to return to Halifax.
The 25-year-old had 16 points in the first quarter yesterday to set the tone early and the Rainmen didn’t look back, leading by 10 after a quarter, 16 at the half and 20 after three.
The Kebs, relying mostly on just six players, couldn’t mount a comeback in the fourth, despite a 31-point, 12-rebound effort from former Rainmen forward Cordell Jeanty.
Bennett, who calls his basketball career “a paid vacation,” said he dedicated his summer to developing a better shot and he connected at a 61 per cent clip on the weekend.
But beyond his offensive contributions, the NCAA Division I product of Bradley has become a calming presence on a roster that currently features five full-fledged rookies.
“He’s much more of a leader now,” said head coach Les Berry. “He’s taken the younger guys, helped them out, helped them understand the pro game. That’s big.”
Centre Mark McCarroll and point guard Adris Deleon had 18 points apiece and Eric Crookshank added 16 points and 14 boards. Saturday’s stars were Desmond Ferguson and Gary Ervin with 18 apiece and Gordon Malone with 14.
The Rainmen wrap up their pre-season today with a 7 p.m. tilt with the Vermont Frost Heaves. The Frost Heaves are scheduled to fly in at 11 a.m. barring weather delays.
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