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The Awakening of Bennedict Mathurin
Arizona Wildcats sophomore Bennedict Mathurin has been a popular name in the 2022 NBA Draft class. But is there still a chance the versatile wing is being underrated?
Doubt. Fear. Distrust. A lack of confidence.
All things that can start to creep up in the mind of an evaluator throughout a specific faze of Draft season. You suddenly start to feel as if your vision has completely changed. What happened? You were such a fan of this one prospect throughout the year but suddenly…it seems as if things have changed.
One of the most difficult challenges in the evaluation process is self-doubt. After falling in love with a prospect in the beginning of the year, you suddenly start to question what you were seeing earlier. Why were you so high on them before? What has suddenly changed? You saw this individual as a potential Top-10 selection, but now you’re not so sure.
The 2022 NBA Draft class is shaping up to have a number of fascinating wings that are going to find themselves making a case to be mentioned as possible early lottery selections. But there’s something that happens in each and every class and I believe it could be happening with a specific prospect in 2022. I like to consider it a “curious case of confusion.” Could we all be appreciating and underrating Arizona sophomore Bennedict Mathurin at the same time? Let me explain my madness a little bit closer.
Coming into the 2022 NBA Draft cycle, one of the most intriguing prospects in the class was Arizona Wildcats sophomore Bennedict Mathurin. After showing some promising flashes as a freshman for the Wildcats, there was a preseason belief that Mathurin could be a name to monitor as a potential late lottery selection. Listed at 6’6”, 210 pounds, the Canadian born wing showed the potential to be a dangerous outside shooter during his first year in Tucson. After an impressive display for Team Canada this last summer during FIBA play, Mathurin was quickly becoming a name to pay close attention to moving forward.
It didn’t take long before the 19-year-old wing started to heat up. Over his first month of play in the 2021-22 collegiate season, Mathurin put together an 8-game stretch of averaging 19.8 points and 6.9 rebounds per game while shooting 53.8% from the field and 41.2% from three-point range. The conversation had quickly shifted to “could Mathurin become a Top-10 pick?”
As the year has progressed, Mathurin has been the engine behind the impressive season for the Arizona Wildcats. Not only has Mathurin shown development as a more versatile offensive weapon, but he’s continued to show the upside to become a dangerous two-way asset at the next level. So why has the attention started to “shift” away from Mathurin? Is there a reason why he’s not generating as much buzz as before? Yes there is and this is what happens with every draft class.
We all do this, each and every one of us. I am guilty of it. All of you reading this sentence that take the evaluation process serious are guilty of it as well. We fall in love with the “new and sexy.”
Don’t believe me? Let’s take a deeper look. Throughout the year, Mathurin was buzzing. He was a player that was even trending as a potential Top-8 selection at one point. Then what happened? Wisconsin sophomore Johnny Davis went bonkers, cementing himself as a potential riser in Draft circles. So what did we all do? We started to focus in on Davis. After a number of fascinating performances from Johnny Davis, he quickly found himself as the new “shiny toy” for the Draft season. Was Davis deserving of this attention? ABSOLUTELY. Was Mathurin doing anything wrong during this time? Not at all, but that’s just the way the evaluation process goes. Once we all start to get a grasp for a prospect, we want to find the new “challenge.”
That wasn’t just the end. Then another young guard started to take over the national spotlight by the name of Jaden Ivey. Quickly, we all shifted our attention to Ivey and what he was doing for Purdue. Mathurin, again, continued to consistently produce for one of the hottest teams in college basketball. Then, we randomly got a “Shaedon Sharpe could enter and go in the Top-6” curveball. Suddenly, we all found ourselves diving into the Shaedon Sharpe mania like a bunch of possessed demons. So what does this all mean?
We all need to jump back on the Bennedict Mathurin train.
There’s plenty of evaluators out there that are starting to feel good about the top half of their rankings. Some might even say they feel pretty “locked-in” when it comes to their top 6-7 prospects in this class, without having a finalized order of those rankings. I’m here to tell you that you need to add one more to that list.
The all-around jump that Mathurin has made this year for the Wildcats has been sensational. Not only has the 6’6” wing become a more dangerous bucket-getting machine for Arizona, he’s also shown some fascinating upside in a number of other areas. I found myself traveling down a lengthy path to compare some of the other notable wings that project to have a similar position and frame when it comes to Mathurin. I was intrigued with some of my results.
So let’s get a little weird and play a fun game. Here’s a look at three different years. Two of these players went in the lottery. The other one is Bennedict Mathurin during his freshman year at Arizona. Can you guess who the other two are?
Player A: 10.8 PTS, 4.8 REB, 1.2 AST, 47.1 FG%, 41.8 3P%, 84.6 FT%
Player B: 10.8 PTS, 5.3 REB, 2.0 AST, 47.1 FG%, 20.8 3P%, 75.0 FT%
Player C: 10.0 PTS, 2.0 REB, 1.1 AST, 47.0 FG%, 41.1 3P%, 82.8 FT%
I promise those numbers aren’t copy and pasted. Now some of you can simply play the card of trying to tell me that I’m looking at something that could be a bit ridiculous. That’s fine, but I still find it fascinating and important to point out the comparisons over the years between those three players.
Player B? Former 2nd overall selection Victor Oladipo during his sophomore year at Indiana. Oladipo would go on to return to the Hoosiers for his junior year, where he went on to finish that season with 13.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game while shooting 59.9% from the field and 44.1% from three-point range.
Player C? Former 13th overall selection Devin Booker during his only season at Kentucky. What’s notable about that spotlight is that Booker could have been a player to have a similar breakout compared to Mathurin had he returned for his sophomore season. Instead, Booker went on to develop into one of the most talented offensive wings in the NBA with his versatility and ability to score from multiple levels.
Player A? Bennedict Mathurin during his freshman year with the Arizona Wildcats. Now these numbers are just fascinating to me personally, because of the insane similarities. As of now, Mathurin is currently averaging 17.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game while shooting 46.5% from the field and 37.7% from three-point range.
If you’ve been watching Bennedict Mathurin closely this year, then you should know there was no way I couldn’t include this juicy showstopper. Mathurin has continued to be a fascinating transition asset in Tommy Lloyd’s up-tempo system. He’s shown the ability to have some lethal explosiveness when he’s got a head of steam. Although Mathurin has the ability to light it up from deep in a hurry, he’s also not afraid to attack the basket with bad intentions.
Bennedict Mathurin returned to Arizona for his sophomore year and NBA scouts and personnel wanted to see if he could continue to develop his arsenal on the offensive side of the ball. Throughout the 2021-22 NCAA season, Mathurin has continued to show that he’s taken some serious strides forward when it comes to his offensive versatility. Not only does Mathurin have the ability to stretch the floor from deep, he has shown the ability off the dribble to attack the lane with patience. His touch around the basket, especially when it comes to his floater in traffic, has also become an underrated part of his development.
SHOOTING ON THE MOVE
One of the most impressive parts of Mathurin’s game throughout the year has been his ability to hit shots on the move. You’ll see a number of times on tape that Mathurin starts to foam at the mouth whenever he’s given the opportunity to create a potential shot on the move. Not only does Mathurin have tough shot-making ability in his bag, he also has some fascinating vertical explosion when it comes to creating his shot. Mathurin understands when he’s going to be smothered and he can use his vertical pop to get his release off at a high spot.
“I GOT HOPS”
Some have mentioned that Mathurin doesn’t look 6’6” when you watch him on tape. It’s important to remember that Arizona is often rolling out a lineup that features some serious size. What sneaks up on you when you watch Mathurin closely is the vertical explosiveness he has. Although you might not realize it at first, Mathurin can climb the ladder in a hurry. He also understands that he can use his athleticism in a number of areas to make him a more all-around player.
One of my personal favorite aspects of Mathurin’s game that I believe doesn’t get enough recognition is his desire to mix it up inside. Mathurin will work his butt off to create additional possessions for his team. Don’t believe me? Go watch Mathurin attack the boards. Rebounding is all about desire and passion. You’ll see a number of times on tape that Mathurin just simply doesn’t give up on a play. He angles himself to read the flight of the ball and Bennedict simply punches the clock and goes to work. One of my favorite sequences from Mathurin above. Notice the movement and positioning that the 6’6” wing goes through in order to fight for this rebound.
PLAYMAKING UPSIDE PART I
Although Mathurin has created a serious amount of buzz with his scoring ability this year, I’ve found myself drooling at the playmaking flashes he’s shown. There’s definitely some vision and floor awareness that are simply scratching the surface when it comes to the 19-year-old wing. Mathurin has shown a number of times that he has the recognition to put the ball in a position in which only his teammate can make a play. You’ll see that he weaves his way through traffic and has the ability to let passing angles develop before throwing great dump-offs. Great job here by Mathurin to make the defense react before throwing a great pass to Christian Koloko.
PLAYMAKING UPSIDE PART II
This was simply one of those plays you had to go back and watch on repeat a number of times. Most of the time, Mathurin might make this move off the bounce and go up for a three-point attempt. I love this sequence because Mathurin continues to keep his head up and read the defense right before throwing a gorgeous dime for an easy two.
DEFENSIVE AWARENESS PART I
The kid isn’t just a scorer folks…there’s some SERIOUS two-way potential to his game. This is what I believe is going to make Mathurin a serious asset for his next NBA team. While plenty of fans and evaluators will be “smitten” about the idea of Mathruin becoming a dangerous floor spacing asset at the next level, I think there’s an enticing defensive weapon that is just oozing with potential. Mathurin has shown the desire to be an absolute pest on the defensive side of the floor. He smothers opponents on screens, shows the fundamental and understanding to play right on the hip of ball-handlers…he simply continues to check important boxes.
I love this sequence above because it shows a number of crucial areas. Mathurin does a great job of smothering the ball-handler before getting his hands up and moving his feet. Once this pass is made, some players might not react quick enough to make a play on this. Mathruin quickly realizes he’s got to make a play and explodes for a massive block at the rim.
DEFENSIVE AWARENESS PART II
Another great example of Mathurin having the ability on the defensive side of the ball to quickly analyze and react. Arizona finds itself applying some full court pressure here but watch Mathurin throughout this sequence. He almost makes a steal on this first pass but notice how he quickly gets his head around to read the ENTIRE floor. Once Mathurin does that, he realizes he’s going to be the last line of defense for the Wildcats. Mathurin puts himself in position in which he prevents a potential kick out to the corner before exploding for an emphatic block up top.
There’s going to be plenty of discussions in the NBA Draft community moving forward about prospects that will be in the mix for Top-10 selections. A number of collegiate players are starting to solidify their case as players who deserve to hear their names called early in the lottery come Draft day. While we all tend to fall in love with the latest prospect that is generating “buzz,” it might be time to jump back on the Bennedict Mathurin train.