NEW YORK – Never has a Quebecer been drafted so early in the NBA: Bennedict Mathurin was selected sixth overall by the Indiana Pacers on Thursday evening at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
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Aged 20, the young man from the borough of Montréal-Nord fully savored his dream, becoming at the same time a source of inspiration for many Quebecers wishing to follow in his footsteps. As he climbed onto the stage to put on the Pacers cap, Mathurin appeared emotional, but smiling.
“To be the earliest Quebecer drafted, it’s really cool to be honest, he commented in particular, after his selection. I think it opens doors. All eyes are now on Montreal. It opens a door for young people and those who will come after me.”
Before Mathurin, Chris Duarte, selected 13th by the Indiana Pacers in 2021, represented the player associated with Quebec having been drafted the earliest in the NBA, in front of Bill Wennington, once called 16th by the Dallas Mavericks in 1985.
“I’m going to bring my heart to the Pacers, I’m grateful and lucky enough that they drafted me,” Mathurin said.
Tribute to his brother
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 donned a spectacular red and black suit with a pendant bearing the words “DomixWorld” to pay tribute 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 the name of my brother”, recognized the Quebecer.
The Orlando Magic, which held the first choice, for its part set its sights, not without surprise, on Paolo Banchero. The Oklahoma City Thunder followed up by calling Chet Holmgren. These two players were therefore preferred to Jabari Smith Jr., who was eventually called up to third overall by the Houston Rockets.
Followed in order, before Mathurin: Keegan Murray (Sacramento Kings) and Jaden Ivey (Detroit Pistons).
Two Canadians in the top 7
Mathurin became only the seventh Canadian to be selected in the top 10 of an NBA draft and Ontario’s Shaedon Sharpe immediately joined him as the eighth when the Trail Blazers called him up, seventh overall in Thursday’s draft. . Tristan Thompson (4th by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2011), Anthony Bennett (1st by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2013), Andrew Wiggins (1st by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014), Nik Stauskas (8th by the Sacramento Kings in 2014 ), Jamal Murray (7th by the Denver Nuggets in 2016) and RJ Barrett (3rd by the New York Knicks in 2019) were the first to achieve the feat.
Product of the University of Arizona Wildcats, the Quebecer had placed himself in a good position for the draft following his most recent season in the NCAA. In 37 games, he had then maintained an average of 17.7 points per game. The Quebecer took part in the last “March Madness” tournament during which his club, after two great victories, was surprised by Houston in the round of 16.
Before joining the University of Arizona in 2020, Mathurin had ensured his development in Mexico, from 2018, within an academy established by the NBA. He also became only the second player from the Latin America Academy to be drafted after Australian Josh Giddey of the Oklahoma City Thunder last year.