He may not be famous yet, but many more Canadians are about to meet 20-year-old Bennedict Mathurin.
The Montreal native has regularly made crowds rave while playing for the University of Arizona in NCAA Division I basketball for the past two seasons, and on Thursday night he is a lock to be picked. high in the NBA Draft.
“I think top six, at least,” said Dwight Walton, a former member of Canada’s national basketball team who believes Mathurin will have an instant impact in the NBA. “His measurements are off the chart.”
Long before Mathurin electrified crowded college stadiums, he played on public grounds in Montreal North, one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.
He got into the game thanks to his sister Jennifer, an elite basketball player in her own right who is now a coach at Bishop’s University.
“I always used to take my brothers everywhere I went,” Jennifer told Global News from Brooklyn, where she will join her brother in the Green Room at the NBA Draft. “They even came with me to train. Sometimes my coaches let Benn practice with us, and he always came to take pictures early and after practice.
She said she was extremely proud of her brother and had goosebumps thinking about when his name will be called in the NBA Draft on Thursday night.
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“She’s the reason why I started playing basketball,” Mathurin said during a recent virtual press conference. “She’s the reason I always stayed focused.”
The game helped Mathurin and his sister cope with the loss of their brother, who died at the age of 15 in a bicycle accident. His death occurred a little less than ten years ago, when Mathurin was only 12 years old.
Mathurin chose to work even harder to honor his deceased brother.
“I think that says a lot about her character, her resilience and her perseverance,” Jenn said.
Mathurin is about to take the final step, as more and more Canadians have done in recent years.
“Without question. It’s a golden age,” Walton said.
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Ontario-born NBA stars like Andrew Wiggins and Jamal Murray are among those who cemented Canada’s reputation as a basketball powerhouse, but Quebec has caught up.
Chris Boucher, Lugentz Doort and are among the NBA players who grew up in Montreal North.
“Montreal always has that underdog mentality, and I think this region helps fuel that underdog mentality where, you know, everything is won, nothing is given,” said Joel McKitterick, former coach of Mathurin and Doort to Brookwood Elite.
“I think you can see how that translates to the way they play on the pitch.”
Mathurin says he hopes his story will convince other children to believe in themselves even if no one else does.
“Not many people believed in me,” he told reporters at a recent press conference. “I remember telling my teacher in high school that I wanted to be an NBA player and he also asked me for my plan B, C and D.”
He said he plans to return to Montreal North to develop the game of basketball as much as possible, and his community can’t wait.
“I feel like I’m able to do it because, you know, the guys here can do it,” said Cellou Bah, a young basketball fan practicing at Carignan Park in Montreal North, one of the formerly frequented by Mathurin.
He and many others in Montreal North will be watching eagerly to see which team picks one of the region’s new sources of pride on Thursday night.
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