INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Arizona sophomore Bennedict Mathurin figures he has a lot to bring to the Indiana Pacers.
“I feel like I’m a winner,” said Mathurin, who was taken No. 6 overall by the Pacers in the NBA draft Thursday night. “I’m a really competitive guy. Off the court, I feel I’m a pretty funny guy.. I like doing a lot of fun stuff.”
The Pacers could use some fun. It was the first time the Indiana had a single-digit draft pick since drafting George McCloud with the No. 9 draft pick in 1989 and it followed a 25-57 finish in the first season of coach Rick Carlisle’s second stint with Indiana. It was the Pacers’ fewest wins since 1984-85 when they finished 22-60.
Mathurin, a 6-foot-6 shooting guard/small forward, averaged 17.7 points. 5.6 rebounds and 2.5 assists last season, when he was named the Pac-12 Player of the Year. He shot 45% from the field, including 36.9% from 3-point range in helping the Wildcats reach the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament. Mathurin was born and raised in Montreal and his family is of Haitian descent.
“We have a pretty good team and I’m looking forward to having an impact right away,” Mathurin said. “The staff was really good to me when I went there for my team workout. I feel like they believe in me. Having people trust in my game is great.”
Mathurin, who turned 20 June 19, said the workout went well.
“I think I was able to show the player I was and my shooting ability,” he said.
The Pacers also held the No. 31 pick in the second round, from Houston via Cleveland, and No. 58 from Phoenix.
Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard began a rebuild of the team after guards Malcolm Brogdon and T.J. McConnell, forward T.J. Warren and center Myles Turner all had lengthy absences because of injuries.
Warren missed the entire season with a foot injury. Brogdon played in just 36 games while Turner played in 42. McConnell played in 27 games. Both might have been able to play later in the season but were shut down with Pacers’ season going nowhere.
The Pacers traded two-time All-Star Domantas Sabonis to Sacramento in February, acquiring Tyrese Halliburton and Buddy Hield and and Jalen Smith.
With Halliburton, the Pacers appear to finally have a playmaking ball-handler.
“It’s great to have a guy like Tyrese, who is a leader who likes to pass the ball,” Mathurin said. “Me being around him every day and learning every day will be a great thing.”
Indiana’s 2021 first-round pick Chris Duarte had a solid rookie season, averaging 13.1 points.
The Pacers traded Caris LeVert to Cleveland with the main prize being the the 2022 lottery protected first-round pick. Since Cleveland faded and didn’t make the playoffs, that pick will now be lottery protected for 2023.
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