NCAA’s First Player With Autism Joins Kent State

Kalin Bennett is now the first player with autism to receive a D1 basketball scholarship.

Kent State Basketball autism

Image via Getty/Frank Jansky

Kent State Basketball autism

Kent State is making history by recruiting the first player with autism to compete in the NCAA. According to, future freshman Kalin Bennett is the first player with autism to receive a Division I basketball scholarship.  

Next year Bennet will make his way from Little Rock, Arkansas to Ohio. The 6'10'' center is not only excited to get on the court, but use this opportunity to inspire other kids with autism. “I want to make an impact not just on the court, but with kids that are struggling with the same things I am,’’ Bennett told the site. “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.’’ 

Bennett was recruited by multiple colleges but chose Kent State because of its autism support on campus. “He is really a phenomenal human being,’’ said Gina Campana, Kent State’s assistant director of the Autism Initiative for Research, Education and Outreach. “A light emanates from this young man. We’re going to be lucky to get him at Kent State.’’

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At a young age, Bennett’s family was told he may never walk or talk due to his disorder, but through therapy he was able to overcome those obstacles. The 18-year-old later revisited the therapist who gave him the initial diagnosis.  

“I showed him his (medical) file. I wanted him to read this book of files so he would know how he needs to always keep fighting,” Bennett’s mother Sonja told “So, when he read it, and then met the therapist, he said; ‘Are you the one who said I would never do this and never do that?’ She said, ‘Yes Kalin, I am.’ He said, ‘My question is, I hope you haven’t told anybody else that because you could ruin their lives.’ She sat right there and took it from Kalin. She did.”

While autism varies along a spectrum, Bennett is certainly a model of what people can achieve regardless of their disorder. Read more about his inspiring story here.

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