Freshman adapts to college basketball with ease

Freshman Khaleem Bennett, a guard for the Bears basketball team, is enjoying his fourth year in the United States. Bennett came to the U.S. as an exchange student from Canada when he was 15, where he lived with a host family in California before moving to Kansas and eventually finding a home at UCA.

photo by Marley Cash-Powell. 

One of the newest additions to this year’s UCA basketball team is a 6-foot-4-inch Canadian guard. Freshman Khaleem Bennett began his basketball journey in the eighth grade and has no intentions of letting it end.

He began playing due to older influences such as his God-brother and sister.

Before landing at UCA, Bennett attended Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas, playing on a nationally-ranked high school basketball team where Bennett experienced some of his best basketball memories.

“My best memory had to be my senior year,” Bennett said. “We were ranked the number two team in the nation and everyone who came across us went home empty-handed. We also beat three of the top five teams in the nation.”

He was also selected to play in the Signature All-Canadian Showcase as a senior. The game features the top-ranked junior and senior Canadian players. The showcase is an

NBA-certified event and also featured Duke’s star freshman, RJ Barrett.

“Participating in the Signature All-Canadian game was a blast,” Bennett said. “It was my last time ever playing on Canadian soil and just the atmosphere was crazy. I had a lot of family and friends attend that game, but it was really good to be able to play in front of my hometown crowd one last time.”

When it came to choosing a place to play at the collegiate level, Bennett was won over by UCA’s atmosphere of support and the team’s style on the court.

“What made me pick UCA was definitely the coaching staff and the fast-pace style of play —  but also the background of the team, how it’s like a family, and that’s where I felt most comfort.”

Bennett has found that some of his expectations for college basketball were spot on, but some things caught him off guard. Bennett said the traveling was the biggest curveball for him, but the skill level of the game was what he anticipated.

Although many believe he is having a good freshman year, Bennett believes he could be playing even better. He also acknowledged consistency as the biggest adjustment when playing at the collegiate level.

“All the time, every practice or game, I need to be locked in, because, the way our conference is, anyone can win or lose on any given night,” Bennett said.

Bennett has also built a good rapport with his teammates due to his desire to work hard and ability to adapt quickly.

“Khaleem is a very unselfish player and is someone everyone wants to play with because he will do whatever it takes to win,” teammate and sophomore guard DeAndre Jones said. “He was kind of forced to adjust quickly to the college level but with the type of player he is, it didn’t take long for him to get comfortable.”

Jones also said he admires Bennett’s willingness to take criticism and grow from it. He also believes it will make him better in the long run.

Bennett said he feels, during his time at UCA, his defense has improved the most and he takes pride in stopping his opponents.

Bennett said he has aspirations of playing professionally in the NBA and traveling the world.

 

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