Bennedict Mathurin Montrealer Montreal NBA interview Indiana Pacers

An interview with Bennedict Mathurin, the first NBA lottery pick from Montreal

“Basketball is lifting up year after year. Having the (Alliance), having all of those players come from overseas to Canada, it’s giving a lot of exposure. The future is bright in Montreal.”

“With the sixth pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, the Indiana Pacers select Bennedict Mathurin from Montreal,” announced league Commissioner Adam Silver before a crowd of thousands at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on the night of June 23. 

Without even stepping foot on an NBA court, Mathurin has already made league history. He is the first lottery pick to come out of Montreal and joins three other Canadians, including fellow Montreal-born Chris Duarte, on the Pacers’ roster.

Montreal basketball player Bennedict Mathurin has joined the Indiana Pacers

Speaking to Cult MTL via a press conference, Mathurin highlighted many of the benefits to growing up playing ball in the 514.

“There were a lot of pros. When I was a young kid, I used to go to the park, all the kids were around. It was good for me to get better and go through adversity every day, just to play against other kids. We used to go from like 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. I got a lot of reps. So I mean, it’s been good for me to be honest. Just gonna be around basketball every day.”

Like Chris Boucher and Luguentz Dort before him, Mathurin is a basketball talent from Montreal North. It’s a community that instilled a strong work ethic and created some of his earliest memories with the sport. However, the crime-heavy neighbourhood often found Mathurin having to watch his back.

“Where I’m from, it’s kind of dangerous. So we had to hurry up when we’re done and go back home because sometimes, things were not great when it was late at night.”

“That’s one of my good friends,” revealed Luguentz Dort of the Oklahoma City Thunder, in an interview shortly after our conversation with Mathurin. “I’m happy to see him going through that (draft) process.”

In the mere three years since Dort joined the NBA, the Montreal basketball landscape has evolved rapidly.

“Now, the kids can see that there are a couple of guys from Montreal in the NBA. They see how basketball in Montreal is developing so much — I’m so grateful for that,” added Dort, who answered questions from courtside at an Alliance game.

Bennedict Mathurin and Luguentz Dort
Bennedict Mathurin and Luguentz Dort

Mathurin joining the league brings the grand total of hometown hoopers to five. Outside of the NBA, aspiring players now have an opportunity to play in their own backyard, thanks to the expansion of the Canadian Elite Basketball League into the city, with the Montreal Alliance in the midst of their inaugural season.

“I think that basketball is lifting up year after year. Having the (Alliance) in Montreal, having all of those players come from overseas to Canada, it’s giving a lot of exposure. The future is bright in Montreal.”

At 16, Mathurin left Montreal for Mexico City, becoming the first Canadian player to join the NBA Academy Latin America campus. From there, he joined the Arizona Wildcats, averaging 14.8 points and 5.3 rebounds in his two seasons of college ball.

In his last year with the Wildcats, Mathurin earned the highest honour of the Pac-12 Conference, becoming 2022’s Most Valuable Player. The award gives him big shoes to fill, with all-time greats such as Gary Payton, Kevin Love and James Harden serving as former recipients.

Speaking to The Washington Post ahead of the draft, Mathurin made headlines. Not only does he want to join the ranks of the aforementioned legends of the game, he wants to conquer their legacies.

“A lot of people say he’s great,” Mathurin said of the one and only LeBron James. “I want to see how great he is. I don’t think anybody is better than me. He’s going to have to show me he’s better than me.”

Only time will tell if Bennedict Mathurin is worthy of wearing the King James crown. For the time being, his accomplishments ahead of his rookie NBA season have already established him as Montreal basketball royalty. ■

This article was originally published in the July issue of Cult MTL.

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