BROOKLYN, NY — Canadians Bennedict Mathurin and Shaedon Sharpe took very different paths to the NBA, but their professional dreams came true within minutes of each other on Thursday.
Mathurin, a 20-year-old Montrealer who played at the University of Arizona, was selected sixth by the Indiana Pacers. Moments later, the Blazers took a chance on Sharpe, a 19-year-old from London, Ont., who hasn’t played in a college game, with their seventh pick.
“I feel like a winner,” Mathurin said. “I’m a really competitive guy. Off the pitch, I feel like I’m a pretty funny guy. I like to do a lot of fun things.”
It’s only the second time in history that two Canadians have made the top-10 in the NBA draft. In 2014, Andrew Wiggins was taken first overall by Cleveland, and Sacramento took Nik Stauskas with the No. 8 pick.
Mathurin joins a Pacers team that finished with a modest 25-47 record last season.
The six-foot-six fullback/forward became the first Canadian to attend the NBA academy in Mexico City in 2018. The draft broadcast showed live footage of current academy players cheering him on .
Mathurin then played two seasons at the University of Arizona, earning Pac-12 Tournament Most Outstanding Player honors, and averaging 17.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game this year.
He scored 30 points in a big game in the second round of March Madness, helping Arizona beat Texas Christian University in overtime.
Broadcasters compared Mathurin’s game to the Toronto Raptors’ OG Anunoby.
“We have a pretty good squad and I’m looking forward to making an impact straight away,” Mathurin said. “The staff were really good to me when I went there for my team training. I feel like they believe in me. To have people’s confidence in my game is great. “
Mathurin, whose parents are from Haiti – he speaks English, French, Spanish and Creole – hugged his mother and sister before taking the stage at the Barclay Center. He drew rave reviews for his burgundy and black floral suit.
Sharpe, a 6-6 wing, was a five-star recruit when he signed up at Kentucky in January. But he never played for the Wildcats, and when that was expected to change in 2022-23, he raised his eyebrows by declaring himself for the draft instead. He hasn’t played significant five-on-five action since a high school game in October.
“Going from high school to college and not playing your college season and then straight to the NBA is quite a journey. But every step of the way, I just fought and had fun,” Sharpe said.
Sharpe is looking forward to playing with star goaltender Damian Lillard.
“He’s a great guard himself and he’s been in this league for a while now, so I’m looking forward to really learning from him,” Sharpe said.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 23, 2022.
The Canadian Press