He'll Play for Kent State, in What's an NCAA First

Kalin Bennett signs letter of intent, would be first autistic student to play at Division I level
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 29, 2018 11:16 AM CST

(Newser) – Kalin Bennett is 6-foot-10, weighs 300 pounds, and has proven to be a force on the basketball court throughout his high school playing days in Little Rock, Ark. No surprise, then, that he's signed a letter of intent to play Division I basketball with Kent State. But as Cleveland.com reports, Bennett stands out for one more reason: He has autism. In fact, Bennett is the first autistic student-athlete to sign on for a team sport of any kind on the Division I level, according to the NCAA. The 18-year-old, who didn't start talking until age 7, says he hopes to be a role model.

"I want to make an impact not just on the court, but with kids that are struggling with the same things I am," he tells the newspaper. "I want to let them know, hey, if I can do this, you can do it, too." (See an interview with him here.) Bennett will live in a dorm, though his mother is moving to Kent, Ohio, to be closer to him and help with the transition. The university is known for its support of autistic students, including an initiative to pair each one with a non-autistic student, notes Fox 8 Cleveland. (Brain scans might help with earlier diagnoses.)

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