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With the NBA Draft in his sights, star Canadian basketball prospect Bennedict Mathurin is ready to make his dreams come true.
The 19-year-old Montreal native has had a plan to play in the NBA since he was in high school, dismissing any idea that he would be anything other than a player in the world's greatest basketball league.
"Not a lot of people believed in me," Mathurin said in a video conference Tuesday. "I remember me telling my teachers in high school that I wanted to be an NBA player and then they all asked me (what) my plan B and C and D (were)."
The teachers' questions were likely coming from a good place. Bennedict was considered just a four-star college recruit when he began high school -- as opposed to a can't-miss five-star prospect -- and wasn't receiving the kind of offers you'd expect from a future NBA player.
So he decided to take a risk and join the NBA Academy Latin America in Mexico, becoming the first Canadian to do so.
The academy is a year-round elite basketball development program that provides top high school-age prospects from outside the U.S. with a holistic approach to player development, focusing on health and wellness, character development and life skills, and gives prospects the opportunity to learn the game from coaches who the NBA hires with professional, collegiate and international coaching experience.
Mathurin's gamble paid off and he earned a scholarship to the University of Arizona where he starred for the past two seasons, earning a Pac-12 All-Freshman team selection in his first season and then, this year, being named the named Pac-12 Player of the Year, the Pac-12 Tournament’s most outstanding player as well as a second-team All-American selection by The Associated Press.
He averaged 17.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game with the Wildcats this season while shooting 37.6 per cent from three-point range. He is now considered a likely lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.
Arizona's season came to an early end when it fell to Houston in the "Sweet 16" of the NCAA Tournament.
The abrupt halt of his collegiate life marked the beginning of his pro one, however, and ever since, Mathurin has been preparing for the June 23 draft at Brooklyn's Barclays Center.
"I've just been working out pretty hard every day and trying to get better and improving things that I should (continue to) improve during the season," Mathurin said. "It's all about adding pieces to the puzzle."
As part of his draft preparation, Mathurin has reached out to fellow Montreal NBAers like the Oklahoma City Thunder's Luguentz Dort and free agent Chris Boucher, who played the last few seasons with the Toronto Raptors.
"I was able to talk to most of them the past couple of weeks," Mathurin said. "Them being in the NBA, they have the knowledge of what it takes to not only be in the NBA but to stay there as well. So I've been able to talk to them and get feedback."
Mathurin's time with the NBA Academy is also helping him prep for draft day, he said.
"NBA Academy is like a step in the NBA," he said. "I was able to be around a lot of people who have played in the NBA or worked in the NBA."
Now that he is less than a month away from seeing his lifelong dream become a reality, Mathurin is starting to think about what his draft-day outfit is going to be.
"I'm pretty excited about that day, and I'm sure it will be something exceptional for you guys to see," he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 31, 2022.
Steven Loung, The Canadian Press