Montreal celebrates local basketballer's move to the NBA's Indiana Pacers

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Montreal's Bennedict Mathurin of the University of Arizona Wildcats. seen here on March 18, was drafted sixth overall to the Indiana Pacers. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images - image credit)
Montreal's Bennedict Mathurin of the University of Arizona Wildcats. seen here on March 18, was drafted sixth overall to the Indiana Pacers. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images - image credit)

Basketball coach Joey McKitterick was courtside when he heard one of his former athletes was selected in the first round of Thursday's NBA draft.

"I think there was a loud scream on my part, but I realized everybody in the gym was screaming. You know there were about three games going on and it was just like a celebration," he said.

Bennedict Mathurin, who just celebrated his 20th birthday a few days ago, was selected with the sixth overall pick by the Indiana Pacers — the first player from Montreal to be selected as a lottery pick.

He wasn't the only Canadian to make the cut. Shaedon Sharpe, 19, was picked by the Portland Trail Blazers. Sharpe is from London, Ont. It's only the second time in history that two Canadians have gone in the top 10 in the NBA draft.

CBC
CBC

"It's an inspiration for sure," said Montrealer Augustin Vareille, a basketball fan who was out on a local court Friday.

"I've never had the personal goal to make it to the NBA, of course, but it's great to see Montreal represent in the NBA and Quebec as well. So, it's great news for us. I'm eager to follow him in the NBA and see what he does."

Rafael Thiebaud said he has been living in Montreal for about three years and he's impressed by the level of basketball in the city.

"I love the city of Montreal and whatever puts the city more on the map — you know, out there — I think it's great," said Thiebaud.

Mathurin now joins the ranks of professional basketball star Luguentz Dortas as a pillar of the Montréal-Nord borough. Dortas, 23, plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Local Winnie Nombre said it's an opportunity for children in the area to see someone grow up in the community and make their dreams come true.

"That's a big step for just little people and just kids around us in the community," she said.

But for kids to follow in the footsteps of Montrealers who have made it into the NBA, McKitterick said the city needs more facilities and resources.

"You know, there's private arenas," he said. "Maybe it's time that people start looking at investing in private basketball facilities."

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