Khaleem Bennett: Open to change, ready for opportunity

Working hard to hone his skills on the court doesn’t diminish Khaleem Bennett’s outgoing and approachable personality.

Bennett prides himself on expanding his circle of friends outside basketball, befriending people from different backgrounds. He loves interacting with the community by attending other sporting events at his school.  

“I see myself as a guy that gets along with everybody and enjoys the community.” Bennett said. “I’ve met a lot of people through football games and pep rallies. When you get to know people they start liking you, and they are going to want to support you because you supported them.”

Bennett’s friendly nature is not something that goes unnoticed, earning admiration from his AAU coach Dwayne Washington.

“He is always trying to expand his knowledge. He is always trying to get to know different people,” Washington said. “He makes everybody feel comfortable around him.”

Bennett’s open-minded attitude helps him gain knowledge and understanding from all different walks of life. This not only helps him be a well rounded person, but helps Bennett understand that if he wants to play in the NBA, he has to make it happen himself.

After a productive summer on the court two years ago, the Toronto-area native moved to California to play for Prolific Prep Academy. But after one year, he decided to look elsewhere and landed on Sunrise Christian Academy in Bel Aire, Kansas, a small suburb of Wichita, Kansas.

“[Bennett] going to Kansas from the Toronto area definitely shows that he is willing to do what he needs to do to get where he wants to be. And I commend him for that,” Washington said.

Sunrise Christian Academy enrolls only about 140 high school students, according to Bennett.

“It’s a lot quieter. Everybody knows who everyone is,” he said. “I like it because it keeps you focused.”

The 6-foot-4 high school junior is transitioning from a forward to a guard in order to become more of an asset at the next level.

Bennett tries to emulate the quickness of Bradley Beal and the smooth scoring ability of Demar Derozan. He tries to play as aggressively and fast-paced as possible, emphasizing scoring.

“One thing that really stands out is how aggressive he is, how he keeps coming and doesn’t back down,” Washington said. “He plays 100 miles-per-hour no matter who he is playing against.”

Still, Bennett focuses on being a well-rounded player. He even mentioned he enjoys rebounding and playing defense.

“At the end of the day, I’m trying to help my team, so it does not matter how I help,” he said.

Last year, when Bennett was at Prolific Prep in California, one of his teammates was Josh Jackson, a prospective lottery pick. Playing for Sunrise Christian Academy, another premier high school program, still provides Bennett competition against some of the most highly touted players in the nation. This year, Bennett faced teams with players like five-star Duke signee Gary Trent Jr. and 2018 four-star prospect Devon Dotson.

“Playing with all these top players helps my game get a lot better,” Bennett said.

Bennett’s high school team finished its 2016-17 season with a 19-6 record, according to Prep Circuit. Bennett was the team’s leading scorer. Most notably, Bennett scored 25 points against North Carolina commit Jalek Felton of Gray Collegiate Academy (SC). Playing well against elite players gives Bennett the confidence to know that he belongs, despite not being ranked.

The class of 2018 prospect has garnered interest from Central Arkansas, Wichita State, Tulsa, Kansas State, St. Bonaventure and Oklahoma, with scholarship offers coming from Central Arkansas and Wichita State.

“He could surprise a lot of people. He has the ‘it factor’,” Washington said. “If Khaleem keeps working hard and does the right things he could have the chance one day to play in the [NBA].”