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Meet Kalin Bennett, The First Basketball Player With Autism To Receive A D1 Scholarship

Meet Kalin Bennett, The First Basketball Player With Autism To Receive A D1 Scholarship

Photo via: NBC News 

After being recruited by multiple competitive Division 1 collegiate basketball programs at various colleges and universities, basketball standout Kalin Bennett recently accepted a scholarship offer from Kent State University. Bennett is a 6'10" center from Little Rock, Arkansas who was also diagnosed with autism as a child. Defying many developmental odds in spite of his autism diagnosis, he has proven naysayers wrong once again by becoming the first player with autism to be signed to a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) school for a Division 1 sport.

Kent State has been applauded for the school’s commitment to autism awareness and advocacy. This campus priority aided Bennett in making his decision to attend the school and play for their basketball team. Not only was Bennett diagnosed with autism, his mother was told that he would remain non-verbal throughout his life and potentially never walk nor function independently. Determined to beat the odds, Bennett’s fighting spirit along with intensive therapy prevailed allowing him to begin to walk at four years of age and then become conversational by age eight. While his developmental progress was significantly delayed, he continued to make progress nonetheless.

Upon graduating from high school, Bennett confronted the therapist that once told his mother about all of the things that he wouldn’t do because of his autism diagnosis. He thought it was important to show her that he had successfully done everything that she said he wouldn’t be able to do. He also challenged her to not tell future mothers what she told his because those limiting words have the potential to ruin people’s lives. The therapist sat quietly to fully acknowledge all that Bennett shared and asserted.

Bennett is well aware of what he has just accomplished and he takes great pride in inspiring children on the autism spectrum to give them hope for their futures.

"I want to make an impact not just on the court, but with kids that are struggling with the same things I am," Bennett shared with "I want to use this platform to inspire other kids with autism and non-autism. I want to let them know, hey, if I can do this, you can do it too. A lot of times they feel alone and by themselves, and I felt that same way growing up."

Kent State representatives have lauded Bennett as a "phenomenal human being." They are excited to welcome him and his contributions to their campus and basketball team. In addition to his prowess on the court, Bennett also demonstrates interest and talent in math and music. He is determined to continue to be a shining example of the limitless capabilities of those with autism spectrum disorders, including being a standout collegiate athlete and beyond.