When Kent State true freshman Kalin Bennett hit a jumper with 2:30 to play Wednesday night, Nov. 6, he did more than score the first points of his collegiate career. Bennett is believed to be the first person diagnosed with autism to score in a Division I basketball game.
Bennett's basket gave the Golden Flashes a 91-54 lead over Division III Hiram College in a game Kent State would win 97-58 in Kent, Ohio.
Bennett had already made history when he entered the game, as there are no other known instances of a person diagnosed with autism to play in a Division I game.
"This game was a lot of fun," Bennett told Fox 8 Cleveland after grabbing a pair of rebounds and blocking a shot to go with his two points in six minutes. "Being able to display all the hard work we put in from when we first got here to now. And for my mom to see it — it was really big for me to let her know that everything she did was not in vain."
Bennett made headlines last November when he signed his scholarship while at Little Rock (Ark.) Christian Academy. According to his mother, Sonya, doctors originally told her that Bennett would need a specialized facility.
"And as time progressed, they were saying that he wasn't going to talk, wasn't going to walk, and that I should look at these different facilities for him," Sonja said this summer, per NPR. "And I said, 'No.' I had a child with an ability to do great things, but they just wanted to put a period on it, and just tell me to just throw my hands up. Well, I did throw my hands up. But I just said, 'God, help me to help Kalin.'"
After seeing her son play collegiately in-person, Sonja had a different reaction.
"Today was like 'Ahhh!' Just a beautiful day that we have prayed for," she told Fox 8. "It was beautiful, just beautiful. It just lets me know that all the hard work and everything, the crying and crawling sometimes, to get to this point was all worth it."