A Great Story: Basketball Player with Autism at Kent State University

Every now and then, a story comes along where even the word inspirational does not seem to do it justice. This is one of those stories.

Kalin Bennett, this name had no place in the basketball world until recently. Now it is a source of hope not only in the world of basketball but for all of humanity. When Kalin Bennett received a scholarship to play basketball at Kent State University, he became the first basketball player with an autism spectrum disorder to receive the highest level of scholarship. When the first match, he scored his first points. This, of course, gave hope to children with autism all over the world with early diagnosis and appropriate rehabilitation.

It is our hope that people from all sports, especially in basketball, can mingle with each other, move and those around them forward, and even from time to time to be a solution to some health problems. Kalin Bennett will always be on the lookout after this and will always be applauded. He will be a source of pride for himself, his family and all autism sufferers.

Kalin Bennett is a young 19-year-old basketball player. On the floor of Kent State, he has just scored his first two points in the university championship. For many people, it would not be out of the ordinary. But for him, this basket is of particular importance.

Because the story of Kalin Bennett is not trivial. From an early age, the medical profession diagnosed him as autistic spectrum disorders. According to the figures, between %25 and 50% of children affected by this pathology fail in order to develop any communication. Some doctors even believe that Bennett could never walk normally. This is confirmed actually. The boy is struggling at first. The doctors advise her mother in order to place her son in a specialized center. Eventuality swept aside by the principal concerned she said no to the doctors. She had a child with an ability to do beautiful things, but they wanted to stop it and asked her to get rid of it.



When Kalin was a child, it was believed that he was among those with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and thus he would remain non-verbal his entire life and may never walk. As a young boy, he had trouble separating reality from fiction and, because he has such a kind heart, would struggle with how people could be so mean-spirited.

As it turned out, Kalin did not sit up until he was 2 years old, did not walk until he was 4 years old, did not talk until he was 7 years old, and could not hold a conversation until he was 8 years old. But he was walking and talking, after all. Hard work and therapy had paid off.

However, his mother and he grow together, with the help of a therapist who visits the Bennett three times a week. Kalin was making progress. He learns to sit, to communicate, by tapping on pots or pans. He learns to do daily activities by himself. When he was 7 years old, he learns to speak. When he was 9 years old, he was already taller and stronger than average. And one day, he shares his ultimate dream with his mother which is to become a professional basketball player.

All the time keep in mind that no leader, entrepreneur, or human being has to overcome limitations alone. For Kalin, it was his parents along for the journey, especially his mom, Sonja Bennett. Kalin told Kent State that he was not coming if his mom could not be close by. As Kalin said even when he has the best day of his life, he still wants to make sure that he sees his mom’s face.



Sonja, a phlebotomist, is the main cog in Bennett’s support system. Bennett’s father, Gerald, assists from a distance in Dallas. Bennett stays in a dorm on campus. Sonja, who is a divorced mother, lives about five miles away. She is close but limits her visits to campus and her son comes to her home about once a week.

Yet again, the beginnings are complicated. It was difficult to blend into the mold, to remember the instructions of the coach. Clever who is Kalin’s coach will enjoy the passion of his young protege for maths to teach him some exercise by betting on numbers and mathematical combinations. And, little by little, it pays off. Kalin takes confidence. In itself first. Then in his teammates. Collective victories do him good. Put him in confidence. He says whit hindsight that he learned a lot by just being himself, not someone else, just being Kalin.

According to Kalin’s coach, the fact this kid worked hard enough to get to this point, it really is inspiring for a lot of people. He is very verbal and very outgoing, now. You would never guess this kid did not speak until he was 7 years old when you interact with him. He has got an incredibly engaging personality. It is probably his best attribute as a young man.

Bennet ranked as the No. 16 prospect in Arkansas during his senior year at Little Rock Christian Academy. He was recruited by several other colleges but he chose to play at Kent State University. Kent State offers resources to assist students with an autism spectrum disorder, including a college success program for students with an autism spectrum disorder or Asperger’s syndrome that provides everything from experiential learning to job and career assistance.



Bennett appreciates the team’s approach. The tougher the practices, the better. His teammates and coaches are hard on him because of the fact that they want him to get better, said Bennett, who recovered from March labrum surgery on his left shoulder. But he expects even more from himself. He did not move 1,000 miles to waste anybody’s time. He wants to be able to do more for himself and help his family.

At the beginning of November 2018, Kalin Bennett became the first person with an autism spectrum disorder to get an NCAA scholarship at the Division I level. In December 2018, Bennett made headlines by becoming the first basketball player with an autism spectrum disorder to join Kent State. Kent State coach Rob Senderoff said that when they signed him, he had no idea it would be this impactful and important for this many people.

Rob Senderoff said that there are some things he liked about him. No matter when he watched him, he was always enthusiastic and a really good teammate. He said that even though he is huge and an enormous kid, he can score with decent touch, decent hands, and decent feet to where you look at him.

Robust, surly, powerful, the beautiful baby of 2m10 for 135kg has basket full hands. And perspires confidence. He played six minutes for 2 points and 2 rebounds. When, in the middle of the second quarter, his left-hand attempt pierced the net, the entire bench of his team stood up from one man. At the end of the match, all his teammates fell into his arms. Proud of the path accomplished by this young kid who is once so shy and taciturn.



For Kalin himself, this is not just about his disability, it is mostly about following your dreams no matter what anyone else tells says you can and cannot do. Next year, in 2019, Kalin will play center for Kent State’s men’s basketball team, but it is his journey in order to get to this place that has everyone in awe of his determination.

In an Instagram post following his signing announcement, he told his life story to everyone. Now, everyone knew that he was nonverbal until age 7, and had a very hard time understanding and comprehending people. Kalin was constantly bullied, as it happened to most of the kids with autism, and it was not discovered until his love for basketball that he was focussed on overcoming the barriers he faced.

In the post, he said that other people around him said he would not be anything. They said he would not be able to have a life without someone’s help, they said he would not be able to live out the best life which a regular person can dream, but every single day he keeps on proving other people they are wrong and rightfully so for hid dream is coming true.

Kalin’s mentality was don’t let anyone tell you what you can or you cannot do. This helped him a lot to overcome labels and succeed throughout his journey. He always says to others that you should fight even when it looks like it is not in your favor. While some people with autism spectrum disorder have sensory processing issues and an inability to stand certain noises, Kalin admitted that this is the reason why he cannot play basketball and choose basketball to play. We rarely hear athletes speak so openly about their challenges, but Kalin’s not just doing it for himself, he is doing it for anyone in need of inspiration.



He said that he wants to be a professional basketball player, that is every basketball player’s dream eventually. But at the same time, he wants to use this platform in order to inspire other kids with autism and normally developed kids, and let them know, ‘Hey if I can do this, you can do it another one too.’ He knows that a lot of times they feel alone or by themselves because of the fact that he felt that same way while growing up.

Kalin Bennett says he wants kids to believe in themselves “first and foremost”. And he is hoping that he can be an example for them as well. Bennett is the first student-athlete with an autism spectrum disorder to sign a national letter of intent in order to play a team sport at the NCAA Division I level. He made his debut for Kent State University’s men’s basketball team in its season-opening game.

Kent State won the home game against Hiram. Kalin Bennett entered the game with six minutes left to play, and he finished with 2 points, two rebounds, and one block. He scored his first collegiate points on a hook shot with less than three minutes left to play. After the game, Bennett’s teammates cheered him over to the school’s victory bell for him to ring. He said that “For my mom to see it was really big for me, too let her know that everything you’ve done has not been in vain.” after the game.

Bennett is not the first student-athlete with autism to receive a scholarship. Before him. in 2011, Anthony Ianni received a scholarship from Michigan State University. However, Ianni did not receive a scholarship from Michigan State until he transferred there for his senior year, Bennett, on the other hand, is the first to sign a national letter of intent for a Division I basketball scholarship.



Bennett had an obsession after the game which is thanking his mother. That she saw that, it was huge for him. To let him know that everything we did was not futile explained emotionally, together, mother and son managed to push the limits. “Their” limits. And something tells us that this is just the beginning of a beautiful story.

He said that it is good to know that people look up to him but the real thing is: Everybody is capable of doing whatever they want to do in life. He hopes that he created a thing that is going to transcend to more kids so they believe in themselves first and foremost.

Kalin expresses how grateful he is for his family and the people who believed in him, but based on the praise-filled reactions across the internet, it is clear that the person to be grateful for is Kalin. By simply following his dreams, he is helping to dispel the stereotypes surrounding autism spectrum disorder, and for that, we should thank him. This boy sounds like he will be a great role model. We hope Kalin gets the resources he needs to succeed in college, both as a student and an athlete.

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