Autistic Athlete Recruited To Play College Ball

Kent State University’s Kalin Bennett causes media storm

Kalin Bennett is reportedly the first Division 1 basketball player with autism. Photo courtesy Google images.

Kalin Bennett is reportedly the first Division 1 basketball player with autism. Photo courtesy Google images.

Madison Culbertson, Print Layout Assistant Editor

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Kent State has recently recruited the first student-athlete with autism to play sports at the NCAA Division 1 level. When Kalin Bennett, a student from Little Rock, Arkansas, signed a letter of intent to play basketball with KSU last November, it sparked a media storm.

Eye of the Gale jumped on the media wagon and contacted Bennett’s family and his new college coach to find out more about how he is adapting to his new-found celebrity status.

“I think the notoriety is great,” said KSU Head Basketball Coach Robert Senderoff.

KSU basketball coach, Robert Senderoff. Photo courtesy Google images.

“This is an inspirational story to many. I have gotten calls, emails and letters from all throughout the country because of Kalin’s story.”

When Bennett was younger, his family was told that due to autism, he would never walk or even talk. But that news did not stop his mother, Sonja Bennett from encouraging her son to succeed. When Bennett was introduced to basketball in the third grade, his life changed for the better.

“The light came on,” said Sonja Bennett.

Basketball, she said helped her son build self-esteem.

“He had brotherhood (with his teammates) and it taught him about teamwork,” she stated in an online interview.

Not only is Bennett an accomplished basketball athlete, he is also gifted in mathematics and music. The 6 foot 10 inch tall basketball athlete plays four different instruments.

Bennett was recruited by a number of colleges but he said that KSU seemed like a good fit for him.

“It felt like home,” he said.

Part of his decision included the “school’s nationally recognized autism initiatives,” said Bennett.

Bennett’s recruitment to KSU and the media attention he has received has been a positive example for other people with autism. The director of adult services at Autism Speaks says she is hopeful Bennett’s story will inspire others.

“The public nature of his decision can have a really great impact on younger children with autism who may not have seen this path for themselves,” she said.

Although KSU staff also sees Bennett as an inspiration to others, Senderoff clearly pointed out that his new-found popularity had nothing to do with his signing.

“It’s also very important to Kalin and to me that everyone understands that we recruited him for the player and the person that Kalin . . . not the notoriety that he has received.”

Senderoff said that Bennett was recruited for his ability.

“We recruited Kalin because we saw great potential in him as a basketball player. He is big, has great hands and feet and plays very hard. Kalin is also a great teammate and a person we are excited to have join our program,” Senderoff told Eye of the Gale.

“Kalin brings size, strength and toughness to the team. He also has a great attitude which will help him as well.”

Bennett is planning to move 900 miles from his home in Arkansas to Kent, Ohio. He is expected to arrive at KSU in June to begin working on his college degree and basketball career.