Khaleem Bennett was UCA’s top recruit in 2018 and vs. Hendrix College you could see why. Khaleem Bennett had 21 points 6 rebounds and 2 steals against the division III program. He was the 5th ranked prospect in Kansas, 81st ranked shooting guard and 380th ranked prospect by 247 sports composite rankings in the 2018 class and received a 3-star rating. I talked to the Bennett about his game and what led him to commit to Central Arkansas.
LJ: What made you commit to UCA?
Khaleem: First off out of all the schools that recruited me I felt that UCA was the hardest on me. I think they recruited me for 2 or 3 years straight. When I decided to come on my visit, I was told look for things that wouldn’t make you come here. I couldn’t find any. Also the team atmosphere was just like a family to me with a Christian background around it. When I came to my decision, UCA was the only school willing to fly to Canada to meet my family and that meant a lot to me. I was told I’m here to change the Culture and I wanted every last bit of it, I prayed about it a lot and I seen myself playing in a UCA Jersey in my dreams so I had to do it
LJ: What other programs were recruiting you hard along with UCA?
Khaleem: Buffalo, Wichita state, Tulsa, Green Bay, St Bonaventure, Coastal Carolina, and San Diego state.
LJ: What do you feel the outlook is this season for UCA? How far do you think this team can go?
Khaleem: I feel like we can make history, do something that this program hasn’t ever done before. That’s winning the conference and making it to the NCAA tournament. That our goals and even though we got a young team we have the players and coaching staff that believes in our abilities to do so. Step by step. The outlook for our team is that we are young but deep, we want to make UCA a well-known name around the country.
LJ: What player or players have you learned from the most on this team? Who have you grown a great chemistry with?
Khaleem: I was recruited to come in and play so I don’t really know if I learned much from my teammates other than leadership from our seniors Thatch and Tanner, I try to pick our Point guards brain a bit but I’m just focused on being the best I can be and listening to what everyone on this team has to say.
LJ: How do you feel about Russ Pennell and how he coaches? What stands out about him?
Khaleem: Coach Russ is a great coach. He coached at every level you can imagine and is a players coach. He taught me to not worry about stats and to always focus on the team and our goals. He also works me out and we are bringing my game to the next level. I can’t say anything bad about him. He’s a great coach and I’m glad to be playing for him. The thing that stands out with Russ is that he has the love and passion for this sport and always puts his all into us players because he sees greatness in all of us.
LJ: What have the coaches told you about your role with this team? How does it feel to start as a freshman?
Khaleem: They told me to just stay aggressive and be ready for anything, as a freshman and playing big minutes, they understand that I’ll mess up every now and then and they are trying to help me get over play by play and not let it affect my game.
LJ: How did you feel going into the Hendrix College game? What part of your game helps you make the most impact and be productive?
Khaleem: I felt good, I didn’t take them for granted just because there a D3 my coaches told me they are good and I believed it. I try to play every game like it’s my last or like it’s the best team in the conference. And that would have to be my aggression driving to the rim and finishing, I was recruited to score and be aggressive on both ends of the floor but definitely my aggressiveness and athleticism.
LJ: You come from Sunrise Christian high school. I recently interviewed elite 2019 prospect Malik Hall who just committed to Michigan State. Do you know Malik? How does it feel to see another Sunrise Christian player commit to a D1 school? How has playing at Sunrise high school prepared you for this moment?
Khaleem: Yes I went there for 2 years and also played with Malik, that’s my brother I have nothing but love for him and watching him grow into the player he is today is absolutely great. Many players came out of sunrise and went D1 and it’s just how the culture of the school is. Head coach Luke Barnwell is a great coach and Rodrick Clark too. They helped us all develop on and off the court. The best thing I learned from sunrise was this saying “Exit your comfort zone” and that saying helped me a lot. Sunrise is a needy greedy program and many people don’t make it out of there because they basketball work is intense but I know sunrise definitely got me ready for college.