UConn women's basketball player Bent, sister with Down Syndrome share close bond

Published on Thursday, 19 March 2020 20:24
Written by Carl Adamec

Journal Inquirer

STORRS - Molly Bent was part of 136 wins in her four seasons with the UConn women’s basketball team.

But the senior’s greatest victory happened back in her hometown of Centerville, Massachusetts.

“At first I liked Katie Lou Samuelson and I wore my hair like her,” Bent’s younger sister, Sarah, said. “I had a great game and got the tip off and got a basket on the first play. That’s why I wore a Katie Lou bun.

“But now I wear a ponytail like Molly because I love my sister. She is a great basketball player. I want to be like she is.”

Sarah Bent, 15, is a freshman at Barnstable High and a member of the school’s junior varsity girls basketball team.

She has Down Syndrome, and also a love for life and for her older sister.

“I love to watch Molly play because she is so fun to watch,” Sarah Bent said. “I like watching her play at UConn and hear everybody saying, ‘Molly! Molly! Molly!’ I also like watching her on TV so I can hear the nice things people say when she plays. I am so proud of my sister.”

Molly Bent’s college career ended last Thursday when the NCAA announced the cancellation of its national tournament due to the coronavirus outbreak. The Huskies had clinched an automatic bid by winning the American Athletic Conference Tournament title three days earlier.

There was one positive to the season’s premature end - Molly was home in Massachusetts last Saturday to celebrate Sarah’s birthday.

“She loves me no matter what,” Molly Bent said. “Sarah won’t fake anything. It’s genuine happiness, genuine love. Whether I play 30 minutes or two minutes or 10 seconds, she loves me. That is special.

“I try to be a good role model for her by working hard. After she plays a game I’ll ask her, ‘Did you get an assist today? Did you get a steal?’ Everyone loves it when they’ll give her an open shot and we love to see her sink it, because who doesn’t love making a shot? We try to remind her that there’s more to making shots.”

Sarah Bent was destined to be a basketball player and fan. She would sit on the bench when her older sister played at Barnstable High, coached by her father, George.

She followed Molly’s career to Tabor Academy and then would often take the two-hour-plus ride to Gampel Pavilion or the XL Center to cheer her on. When the Huskies took the floor for warmups, the first thing she’d do is look her for her family.

“A lot of times they’re late so I don’t get to see them,” Molly Bent said. “But when I’d see my sister, I’d get this huge smile on my face. I think I’m blessed that I was able to come here so my family is able to come and see me.

“Then to see the joy that comes to Sarah whenever she gets to be involved with this program … Every one of my teammates is incredible to her. Coach (Geno) Auriemma is incredible with her. CD (associate head coach Chris Dailey) gives her a gift every holiday. That’s really special. I get the texts and FaceTime with, ‘Oh, Sarah loved it when you got in.’ That makes me smile because it puts things in perspective.”

One trip, though, was more special than the others.

On Feb. 22, UConn held its Senior Day ceremony at Gampel Pavilion prior to its game with Central Florida. As Molly was introduced to the sellout crowd and made the emotional walk to center court to meet Auriemma and receive her framed jersey, she was joined by her parents and Sarah, with Auriemma greeting Sarah with a big hug.

“I loved it!” Sarah Bent said. “I knew Molly would ask me because she had always hoped for a sister until I was born. It was really fun. I’m glad that Molly wanted me to be with her on the court. It was awesome.”

For Molly, it was an easy decision.

“A lot of times people with disabilities don’t get the spotlight,” she said. “It’s something Sarah will remember the rest of her life and she deserves it. It’s about being with her in the moment and then how she’ll share that joy for months and months.”

Molly Bent is scheduled to graduate from UConn in May. She’s a mathematics major with a double minor in statistics and English. Entering her final semester, she’d received all A’s except for one B-plus in a freshman English class.

She may become a teacher, like her parents. She’d also like to coach. She’d also like to see more of Sarah’s basketball games if her journey keeps her close to home.

But there’s one responsibility she needs to take care of.

Molly is her younger sister’s confirmation sponsor on May 8, which is also Molly’s birthday. Sarah has chosen Mary for her confirmation name. Mary is Molly’s given name.

“There’s so much that’s amazing about her,” Molly Bent said. “One thing is how comfortable she is in who she is. She’ll talk about her favorite movies - “Jaws,” “Soul Surfer,” and “Wonder” - the whole two-hour drive to UConn. For her to be in her world and to be so comfortable with it and with who she is, to see her do that is just incredible.

“And just to see her friends and how kind they are to her. One of her friends, Piper, is an angel sent from heaven and the most wonderful kid you’ll ever meet. To see Sarah have those relationships is incredible.”

As is the sister act in her family.

Posted in New Britain Herald, UConn on Thursday, 19 March 2020 20:24. Updated: Thursday, 19 March 2020 20:26.