Never before had a Quebecer been drafted into the NBA so early: Bennedict Mathurin was selected sixth overall by the Indiana Pacers on Thursday night at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.
At the age of 20, the young man from the Montreal North district fully savored his dream, while at the same time becoming a source of inspiration for many Quebecers who wish to follow in his footsteps. When he took the stage to put on the Pacers cap, Mathurin appeared emotional, but smiling.
“To be the first Québecer to enlist, it’s really nice to be honest, he commented in particular, after his selection. I think he opens doors. Now all eyes are on Montreal. He opens a door to young people and to those who will come after me ”.
Prior to Mathurin, Chris Duarte, selected 13th by the Indiana Pacers in 2021, represented the Quebec associate having been first drafted into the NBA, ahead of Bill Wennington, once named 16th by the Dallas Mavericks in 1985.
“I will take my heart to the Pacers, I am grateful and lucky enough that they enlisted me,” said Mathurin.
Even before knowing the identity of the team to select him in the evening, the Quebecer had turned heads on the red carpet. For this big day, Mathurin wore a spectacular red and black dress with a pendant with the inscription “DomixWorld” to pay homage to his brother Dominique, who died seven years ago following a bicycle accident. After his selection, he quickly rolled his eyes.
“I am here today in my brother’s name,” acknowledged the Quebecer.
The Orlando Magic, which held the first choice, for its part has focused, not without surprise, on Paolo Banchero. The Oklahoma City Thunder followed suit by calling Chet Holmgren. These two players were then preferred to Jabari Smith Jr., who was eventually called up to third place overall by the Houston Rockets.
Following in order, ahead of Mathurin: Keegan Murray (Sacramento Kings) and Jaden Ivey (Detroit Pistons).
Mathurin became only the seventh Canadian to be selected in the top 10 of an NBA draft and Shaedon Sharpe of Ontario immediately joined him as eighth when the Trail Blazers called him, seventh overall in Thursday’s draft. Tristan Thompson (4th from the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2011), Anthony Bennett (1st from the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2013), Andrew Wiggins (1st from the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014), Nik Stauskas (8th from the Sacramento Kings in 2014), Jamal Murray (7th from the Denver Nuggets in 2016) and RJ Barrett (3rd from the New York Knicks in 2019) were the first to realize the feat.
A product of the University of Arizona Wildcats, the Quebecer had put themselves in a good position for the draft after their final season in the NCAA. In 37 games he had then maintained an average of 17.7 points per game. Quebecer took part in the last “March Madness” tournament during which his club, after two great victories, was surprised by Houston in the second round.
Prior to joining the University of Arizona in 2020, Mathurin had secured his development in Mexico, since 2018, within an academy founded by the NBA. He also became the second Latin America Academy player to be drafted after Australia’s Josh Giddey of the Oklahoma City Thunder last year.