John Burke called Kaydine Bent, one of his players on the Truman girls’ basketball team, on her cell phone earlier this week. When she answered, he told her to sit down. So, she did.
“At first I thought something bad had happened or I did something wrong,” said Bent, a senior.
But it was nothing like that. Burke had good news – great news, actually. He told her that officials at Saint Peter’s College had drawn up a National Letter of Intent and they wanted her to sign it. Bent was going to get a full basketball scholarship to the only school she wanted to attent.
She would become the first-ever Truman girls’ basketball player to receive a Division I scholarship and the first basketball player at the school – girl or boy – to get one since the early 1990s.
Burke got silence on the end of the line when he told her.
“I was at a loss for words,” Bent said. “He had to call my name repeatedly. Then, I started to cry.”
It’s been a rollercoaster ride these last two years for the 6-footer. She and her mother immigrated to the Bronx from Jamaica in 2007. She had to get used to the new culture and the new school. Bent has only been playing basketball since she was 12 years old.
“She typifies the American Dream,” Burke said.
It didn’t get any easier once she assimilated. An asthmatic her whole life, she began developing heart problems the more she played basketball. It culminated in her passing out during a practice before this season and being rushed to the hospital. Every time she played, her heart would race and go into an irregular beat.
“Her junior year she couldn’t run up and down the court five times without having to come sit down,” Burke said.
When she was lying in the hospital bed, Bent thought about never playing basketball again – and how crazy that idea was. She could never do it.
“I was thinking, this cannot be it,” Bent said. “I’m not gonna stop just because of some asthma.”
All she needed, though, was the proper medication. Bent blew up this year with the added conditioning, averaging 14.3 points and 16.9 rebounds per game. Her size, strength and production helped her earn interest from Saint Peter’s, Manhattan, St. Francis, Goldey-Beacom College and Southern Connecticut State.
It all seemed great for Bent. But then there was the issue with her SAT score and the NCAA Clearinghouse sliding scale. The test score and her GPA in high school had to match up in the sliding scale. In Jamaica, her average was 70 and at Truman it’s 90. The schools in Jamaica, which are under the British system, are different than those in the United States. Burke, an Ireland native, knows that well. Through the diligence of Truman guidance counselor Kate Cosci, the NCAA Clearinghouse eventually passed Bent through.
Saint Peter’s was the only school Bent visited and she loved everything about it. She developed a rapport with assistant coach Khalisha Lewis, who played forward for the Peahens much like Bent will.
“She could teach me stuff hands on,” Bent said. “I still need to get better.”
On Thursday morning, she signed her letter of intent. All of that hard work paid off with a few swipes of a pen. As she was writing she thought back to that hospital bed, which might end up being a turning point in her development.