Former Arizona Wildcat Bennedict Mathurin aims to become NBA’s premier two-way player in second season

Indiana Pacers forward Bennedict Mathurin is focused on improving his defense to match his offensive output during the 2023 NBA Summer League. (Photo by Candice Ward/Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS – The Arizona Wildcats are well represented in the 2023 NBA Summer League with 11 former players competing, the most of any college during this year’s run. Among them, Bennedict Mathurin, former Pac-12 Player of the Year, stands out as the most high-profile player.

Mathurin, drafted sixth overall by the Indiana Pacers in last year’s NBA draft, aims to continue his impressive performance in Las Vegas. Currently averaging 22 points, four rebounds, and three assists per game for the Pacers (2-0), Mathurin is not only focused on his individual success but also on becoming a leader for his younger teammates and enhancing his defensive skills and decision-making.

“If I can get my defense as high as my offensive level I think I am going to be a great player,” Mathurin said Saturday. “My goal is to be the best two-way player in the league.”

Scoring has always been Mathurin’s strong suit. As a rookie, Mathurin finished second in scoring among his peers, only trailing the Orlando Magic’s Paolo Banchero, who secured the title of 2023 NBA Rookie of the Year. More impressive, Mathurin was used primarily as a sixth man off the bench, while Banchero started every game he played in.

As rookies, the adjustment from college basketball to the NBA can be a learning curve. For Mathurin, his incredible athleticism bodes well in the NBA’s fast-paced style of play but picking his spots and trusting teammates is equally important.

“I challenged him to move the ball and play the game as it flows,” Pacers summer league coach Jannero Pargo said. “When you move the ball and play as a team it also improves our defensive effort and I think that was a big part of our win tonight.”

So far in limited action entering year two, Mathurin has shown the ability to adapt and slow the game down. He finished his first summer league game with 27 points but also had four turnovers and zero assists.

“I think the game is slowing down for him a little bit and he did a great job of passing in our second game with six assists,” Pacers guard Andrew Nembhard said. “His all-around playmaking and his scoring is starting to come together.”

The Pacers would like to see improvement from Mathurin beyond the arc, where he shot 32.3% last season. He has shot only 26.6% (4 of 15) in the first two games, but Mathurin’s work ethic and determination to raise his level of play has him confident in his ability to improve in every facet of his game.

“I am very hard on myself,” Mathurin said. “But I am trying to look at that as an advantage and not a disadvantage. Me missing a shot in a game is going to result in me taking 500 shots in my next workout.”

Josh Amick jaw-sh ey-mick (he/ him)
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Josh Amick expects to graduate in May 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Amick has written and interned for AZPreps365 and is working toward a job as a beat writer or sideline reporter.