The First Basketball Player With Autism to Score Basket in a Division 1 Game
By Alex Starr
KALIN BENNETT: THE FIRST BASKETBALL PLAYER WITH AUTISM TO SCORE IN A DIVISION I BASKETBALL GAME
Kalin Bennett, a 6’11″ Arkansas-born basketball player with autism spectrum disorder made history in the last six minutes of the Kent State vs. Hiram College basketball game. He became the first person on the autism spectrum to score in a Division I basketball game. This wasn’t Bennett’s first time making history, though. Bennett was also the first basketball player with autism to sign a national letter of intent for a Division I basketball scholarship.
BENNETT’S ROAD TO SUCCESS
Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disorder that affects communication, behavior, and interactions with other people, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. The road to success was not an easy path for Bennett whose mother was told that he would never walk or talk due to the severity of his disorder, but Bennett has been breaking down barriers his whole life. His mother ensured that he received extra help growing up, having a therapist come to the house three times a week until Bennett slowly demonstrated improvement in his communication skills. Bennett spoke for the first time at the age of seven and decided that he wanted to try playing basketball in the third grade. While learning to play the sport may have been difficult at first, Bennett’s coach utilized his love for numbers to help him make sense of the game. Bennett’s love for basketball transferred into other areas of his life, helping him become more confident in his social skills, ability to thrive in the face of adversity, and most
importantly, in being himself. In middle school, Bennett learned the value of being unique and staying true to yourself regardless of what others think. He accredits basketball for giving him the newfound self-assurance to “just be Kalin,” Bennett says. It is because of this treasured lesson that Bennett’s priority is to be an example for kids to believe in themselves “first and foremost.”
THE ROLE BENNETT’S MOTHER PLAYS
Because of all the effort and time that Bennett’s mother put into helping him flourish and succeed, it is important to him that he “let her know that everything [she’s] done has not been in vain.” He wants to be himself and set an example for others, going above and beyond others’ expectations. As such, it was an honor for Bennett to know his mom watched him score two points, two rebounds, and one block in Kent State’s winning game. Bennett’s mom isn’t his only supporter, though. After Bennett contributed to the team’s big win, they encouraged him to ring the school’s victory bell in celebration of his record-setting basket.
BENNETT: A SYMBOL OF INSPIRATION
Bennett is out here breaking down walls and raising the expectations for everyone who experiences a developmental challenge. It would have been easy for Bennett to throw in the towel when he was told he would never walk or speak, but life isn’t about doing what is easy. Life is about growing into the best version of yourself that you can be, and Bennett evidences this value in his record-setting endeavors and ability to overcome obstacles no matter how
challenging. Bennett is an inspiration to anyone who is told that they can’t do something but wants to exceed everyone’s expectations, including their own.