Montreal’s Bennedict Mathurin was selected sixth overall by the Indiana Pacers in the 2022 NBA draft on Thursday.
“I feel like I’m a winner,” Mathurin said. “I’m a very competitive guy. Off the court, I feel like I’m a really funny guy. I like to do a lot of fun things.”
Mathurin, a 1.80m point guard/striker, averaged 17.7 points. 5.6 rebounds and 2.5 assists last season when he was named the Pac-12 Player of the Year. He hit 45% of the field, including 36.9% from the 3-point range, helping the University of Arizona Wildcats reach the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament. Mathurin grew up in Montreal and his parents in Haiti.
Mathurin became the first Canadian to attend the NBA Academy in Mexico City from 2018 to 2020, ahead of his two seasons at the University of Arizona.
He scored 30 points in a big game in the second round of March Madness, helping Arizona beat Texas Christian University in overtime.
Broadcasters compared Mathurin’s game to Toronto Raptors’ OG Anunoby. He speaks English, French, Spanish and Creole.
“We have a very good team and I’m looking forward to making an immediate impact,” Mathurin said. “The team was very good to me when I went there for my team’s training. I feel that they believe in me. Having people trust my game is great.”
Mathurin, who turned 20 on June 19, said training went well.
“I think I managed to show the player I was and my shooting ability,” he said.
When his name was announced, Mathurin hugged his mother and sister before walking to the Barclay Center stage. He received rave reviews for his black and burgundy floral suit.
Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard began a rebuilding of the team after guards Malcolm Brogdon and TJ McConnell, forward TJ Warren and center Myles Turner took long absences due to injuries.
The Pacers twice traded All-Star Domantas Sabonis to Sacramento in February, acquiring Tyrese Halliburton and Buddy Hield and Jalen Smith.
With Halliburton, the Pacers seem to finally have a ball handler.
“It’s great to have a guy like Tyrese who is a leader who likes to pass the buck,” Mathurin said. “Being around him every day and learning every day will be a big thing.”
Indiana’s 2021 first-round pick Chris Duarte had a solid rookie season, averaging 13.1 points.
The Pacers traded Caris LeVert to Cleveland, with the top prize being the 2022 lottery-protected first-round pick. Since Cleveland disappeared and didn’t make the playoffs, that pick will now be lottery-protected for 2023.
It was the first time the Pacers had a single-digit pick since George McCloud’s 9th pick in 1989.
Selected shortly after Mathurin was Shaedon Sharpe, a 19-year-old from London, Ontario, selected 7th by the Portland Trail Blazers.
It’s only the second time in history that two Canadians have made the top 10 in the NBA draft. In 2014, Andrew Wiggins was picked first overall by Cleveland, and Sacramento took Nik Stauskas with the 8th pick.
Two more Canadians came back in the second round. Gonzaga point guard Andrew Nembhard is heading to the Indiana Pacers in 31st place, while Caleb Houstan was selected in 32nd place by Orlando.
Canada has had 37 players chosen since the draft went to two rounds in 1989, the second most of any country behind the US.
Nembhard, who played for Canada at the 2019 World Cup in China, spent four years in the NCAA, moving from Florida to Gonzaga over the past two years. The 22-year-old from Aurora, Ontario, did well in the Draft Combine last month, dominating a five-on-five fight with 26 points and 11 assists.
Houstan, a 19-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., has averaged 10.1 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.4 assists with the University of Michigan this season.