INDIANAPOLIS | Montrealer Bennedict Mathurin will live his dream tonight by playing his first game in the NBA with the Pacers. Sublime in preparatory meetings, he ensures that we have not yet seen anything of the extent of his talent. “It's time to show the world who I am,” he says in an interview with the Journal, on site in Indianapolis for the debut of the young prodigy.
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Not need to set foot far in the Indiana capital before the duel against the Washington Wizards to realize how much the Pacers are counting on Mathurin to live a renaissance.
At the foot of the escalator that leads to the baggage carousel at the airport, a giant poster with four Pacers players, including Mathurin, welcomes visitors. We quickly understand that the sixth choice of the last draft is part of the brand image of the team.
Same observation when entering the arena where the Pacers play, the Gainbridge Fieldhouse. On a huge video screen, appear the most prominent players of the team, including Mathurin, who strikes a pose by exposing his biceps.
It must be said that the 20-year-old young man from Montreal North did not take long to make himself known. He finished his four preseason games with 79 points (19.8 per game), a league-high among rookies. However, he only played 23 min 30 s per game.
When we approach him by talking about his performances, Mathurin nevertheless goes there with a little pout.
“I'm never a guy who is completely satisfied, even if I think I did well. There are things I can improve, I can do much better. I can't wait to live this beautiful moment, my real first game in the NBA. I'm really excited,” he says. Mathurin wears his widest smile when it comes to his countless shots at the basket. He seems to like Indianapolis, a modest city that has nothing to do with American metropolises.
“It's really good here. I've managed to stay very close to the gym, so I'm there three times a day to train. There are not so many things to do in the city, which allows me to focus on basketball,” he says.
A different approach
Last year, Mathurin broke everything with the University of Arizona Wildcats, which he led to the “Sweet 16” round in the precious March Madness tournament .
At the Pacers, everything has to be started again in a young club that most observers see among the last in class.
“I was the star in Arizona and in my first preseason game in the NBA, I'm the eighth guy on the court! I won't lie, it wasn't easy. I take that as a motivator. Also, it gives me the advantage of analyzing what is happening on the ground before I get on board. This way I come in and I have an immediate impact”, explains the young phenomenon, who does not think it will take long to adapt to the NBA.
“My style is better suited to the NBA. I didn't realize how good I was at getting to the basket until I started playing in the NBA. It's one of my strengths, even if my real strength is shooting. The players will start to think that my strength is to go to the basket, but they will give me space and I will start shooting,” smiled the Quebecer.
Mathurin has mentioned it many times over the past few months, it is with his late brother Dominique that he will also share this great moment in his life. Eight years ago, his 15-year-old brother was hit by a car on his bicycle.
Bennedict Mathurin, who got his brother's name tattooed on his forearm with his date of birth and his date of death, will play much more than for his personal statistics.
“He's with me everywhere,” he recalls, without dwelling any further on the painful memories.
A rookie who commands respect
In recent weeks, Bennedict Mathurin has not been shy to say that he is aiming for nothing less than the title of rookie of the year in the NBA. In the entourage of the Pacers, this vision is far from being considered science fiction.
Indianapolis coach Rick Carlisle obviously isn't getting into this game, but he's already thinking big for his colt.
“I'm impressed on so many levels by Ben. I think of his maturity for his age, his talent, his athletic traits. He has important qualities for a young player,” he praised. he will contribute from the bench, as was the case in preseason games.
“I never talk about it, until I have to put my roster back. I consider him a player who has the caliber to start. The best thing about him is that he is comfortable in any role. He just wants to play and contribute to being part of something bigger than him,” he argued.
Veteran columnist Bob Kravitz, of The Athletic and formerly of the Indianapolis Star, has followed the sports scene for 36 years. What he saw of Mathurin in preseason games led him to use a stark comparison.
“He's got some Dwayne Wade in his game,” he told the Journal.
That's no small thing, considering Wade won three championships with the Miami Heat in addition to being named an All-Star 13 times.
“He (Mathurin) plays with so much confidence and he is never afraid to attack the basket. He is physical and aggressive. If he is more consistent from the perimeter, he will become a dominant player. He arrived at the best place because he will have a lot of playing time and will be able to develop”, he insisted.
Among the other players who embody the face of the young team, Tyrese Haliburton knows what adventure his Quebec teammate is embarking on.
He himself was chosen 12th overall from the draft two years ago by the Sacramento Kings before moving to the Pacers last season in the youth turn of the team.
“He is doing very well so far . As NBA players, we put a lot more pressure on ourselves than anyone else could. For him, the important thing will be his growth as a player. He is already doing amazing things as a rookie. He learns very quickly, but we must not forget that it will be a learning process”, he rightly recalled.
Katrine Johns has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Gal Post, Katrine Johns worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my email@example.com 1-800-268-7128