“He’s from Montreal. It means that I have a chance to make it to the NBA and it motivates me a lot, ”said Aven Jairho, 16, wiping his sweaty face.
The young man is one of the 60 teenagers present at the new Bennedict Mathurin basketball camp, Monday morning, between the walls of the gymnasium of Saint-Laurent secondary school.
Mathurin has often expressed, in recent weeks, his wish to have a positive impact on Quebec basketball players, especially those in Montreal North. This camp is further concrete proof of this.
Although the initial idea came from Bennedict, the organization was mainly the work of his sister and manager, Jennifer. The idea, she explains, was not to make an elite camp. Rather, it was about finding young people “on the eve of dropping out or who need a little more push to give more effort on the basketball side”. She therefore contacted, one by one, the coaches of different programs and schools in Montreal North to ask them to each target a dozen young people.
The camp brings together both boys and girls; a fairness that Jennifer held dear.
“At first, Ben wanted to do a guys’ camp. I said, “If I’m involved, for sure there’s going to be girls.” There is a lot of talent among girls in our neighborhood and everywhere in Quebec. I think that’s really important. »
In the gym, Bennedict is less vocal than her sister, but very observant. We see him particularly impressed by the offensive maneuver of a youngster, who has just scored a basket.
The Indiana Pacers rookie doesn’t remember attending such a camp when he was young, but does remember tournaments where he saw NBA players in action. “It really motivated me to one day be there myself. »
His message to the 60 teenagers gathered in the Saint-Laurent Express gymnasium? ” Everything is possible. Everyone comes from different backgrounds, everyone has different problems. When you jump onto a pitch, everyone becomes the same person. It is a sport that saves lives and brings a lot of fun. »
It’s been a year since Bennedict Mathurin was selected in the NBA. His name was then on everyone’s lips, he who became the earliest Quebecer drafted in history.
Five days ago, it was the turn of another Quebecer to live the dream. Olivier-Maxence Prosper, selected 24th overall, is now a member of the Dallas Mavericks.
Mathurin was listening to the repechage that evening. The two players have known each other over the years, especially during their time at the NBA Latin American Academy, before they made the jump to the NCAA.
“It was really a beautiful moment for him, but also for Quebec. I’m really proud of him. I remember when we played on the same team together, training at 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. »
Mathurin praises his counterpart’s athleticism as well as his three-point shots, which “helped him get to where he is.” “I’m really looking forward to seeing how he’s going to play [in the NBA]. He’s going to have ups and downs, that’s for sure, and that’s the best thing that can happen because that’s what will allow him to grow as a player. »
Mathurin quickly made an impact in the big league, despite not being a starter for the Pacers for much of the season. Jennifer, who moved to Indianapolis to help transition her brother, says she’s “proud of [the] effort” Bennedict made this season.
“I think he did that very well. […] He had such a big impact on the team in his first year that he was in the last choices for the title of rookie of the year. Of course I’m biased because I’m his sister; in my heart he had it. »
“I think [this year] is a good step to build for next year,” she adds.
Beyond what happened on the pitch, the eldest of the family is happy to see that her brother’s “focus” has “tightened”.
“He’s really focused on basketball. Everyone asks me what it’s like to deal with my brother, but I say, “Seriously, I have to tell him to be more social!” “, she exclaims with a laugh.