Indiana Pacers guard Bennedict Mathurin knows his sister has his back
Mathurin is having a standout rookie season in the NBA. Much of his success stems from his supportive sibling, who inspired her brother to play basketball.
Bennedict Mathurin has a focused routine that he sticks to before every NBA game. The Indiana Pacers rookie actually does make one exception, however, to pause when he gets his motivational pregame message from his beloved older sister.
Considering that Jennifer Mathurin introduced her brother to basketball and is still giving him great assists off the court, it is important for him to break routine for her.
“Before the games, I don’t really like to take my phone out and text or call people,” Mathurin recently told Andscape. “But she talks to me before every game telling me how proud she is of me, and just to be myself and focus on the right thing. Before every game, she sends me a text message that I read going into a game like, ‘Go out there and have fun.’
“With the NBA, it’s a job. But at the same time, I’ve been dreaming of this all my life. So, her message is about going out there and having fun while also competing.”
Mathurin turned 20 years old just four days before the 2022 NBA draft. With her brother’s youth in mind, Jennifer Mathurin believed it was imperative to split time between Montreal and Indianapolis to help him. The former pro basketball player left a job in their native Canada to take care of Mathurin’s daily business to allow him to concentrate on being the stellar rookie he has already been with the Pacers.
Mathurin was the NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for October and November and is already one of the league’s top players off the bench.
“Maybe I’m biased, but I already think he’s special,” Jennifer Mathurin recently told Andscape. “He could definitely be an All-Star one day. He could be Rookie of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year, couple years from now MVP. He’s just very special and he’s different.
“At the young age that he plays, he knows the game, obviously. But there is so much room to grow. He’s unpolished. There’s a lot of stuff that he can work on skillwise, but he has a great work ethic. He’s very resilient and he never backs down from a challenge. So, I don’t see why he wouldn’t be an All-Star.”
Mathurin led all NBA rookies in points scored, 3-pointers made, free throws made and free throw attempts in October and November. The 6-foot-5-inch, 210-pounder also led the NBA in bench scoring with 19.2 points per game in October and November. Mathurin was the first Pacers player to earn Rookie of the Month honors since Pacers forward Myles Turner in February 2016. Mathurin entered Monday averaging 18.1 points, which ranked second among rookies overall and third among all reserves.
Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle is pleasantly surprised by Mathurin’s start.
“He is a strong-willed guy who is a nasty competitor who can really score,” Carlisle said. “He’s getting better and better. As he’s going on, teams are spending more time game planning for him, preparing for him, making it harder for him. I spend a lot of time watching film with him. The adjustments that a young player has to make take patience and discipline.
“If you let it frustrate you, it can really frustrate you. I’ve been impressed in how he has maintained an even keel through all that.”
Mathurin credited having no fear and trusting his abilities and his teammates for his early success. When asked if he aspires to be the 2023 NBA Rookie of the Year, Mathurin said: “I definitely want to be Rookie of the Year.”
Bennedict Richard Felder Mathurin was born on June 19, 2002, in Montreal from parents who migrated from Haiti. Mathurin never had a relationship with his father, who died in 2013. His mother, Elvie Mathurin, worked long hours as a nurse to support her children, Jennifer, Dominique Jeune and Bennedict, who grew up in the Montreal suburb Montreal-Nord Est.
There was a lot for Mathurin to love about Montreal-Nord Est, a small town of about 20,000 people with a high immigrant population. It is 32% Black, including one of Canada’s largest Haitian communities, 12% Arab and 8% Latin American, according to Area Vibes. Jennifer Mathurin also raved about the diversity, nightlife, and the food, most notably her beloved Jamaican beef and fish patties.
“I can literally walk the five-minute walk to go to a bomb Chinese place and then get Indian food the next day and then get some patties and then go home and have a home-cooked Haitian meal,” Jennifer Mathurin said. “I like all the clubs. I always brag about that. But you go from hip-hop to rap to salsa to merengue [Dominican] to zouk, which is Haitian music. So, yeah, that’s pretty fun.”
Montreal Nord-Est also has major problems with gangs, drugs, crime, and violence.
“We come from an underprivileged neighborhood, Montreal-Nord, that was predominantly occupied by immigrants,” Jennifer Mathurin said. “So, most of our friends and families, we’re all from elsewhere. There’s a big Haitian community there, but also a lot of Africans, Jamaicans, Hispanics. So, most of our friends are first-generation. There’s gang presence, there’s violence.
“There’s actually an incline right now, which is kind of sad because we have a lot of our youth that are in gangs or that get in trouble with the police. And now what you see more and more is that the kids have access to guns even if it’s not legal in Canada. So, it’s actually very sad to see where it’s heading.”
Said Mathurin: “I’ve been through so many ups and downs. The challenge was that there were just a lot of real bad people where I grew up. Drugs, violence, and stuff. It wasn’t easy.”
Mathurin credited his older brother for keeping him from getting into major trouble.
“I always had my big brother telling me not to do stuff,” he said. “But I knew since [I was] a young kid, I wanted to do something with my life and I wanted to be successful. I wasn’t putting myself into trouble.”
Mathurin says Oklahoma City Thunder guard Luguentz Dort, a Montreal native, was his childhood basketball role model. But it was actually his sister who led him to fall in love with the game.
Jennifer Mathurin started playing basketball when she was 6 years old and went on to play basketball at North Carolina State University and professionally in Finland and Australia. Inspired by their sister, the Mathurin brothers fell in love with basketball, too, and learned the game from her. They often played against each other in tough one-on-one matchup games and in pickup games at Parc Le Carignan against older kids and grown men in their neighborhood.
“I’ve always wanted to be better than my sister,” Mathurin said.
Mathurin’s challenging life without a father and in a tough neighborhood became nightmarish when he was 12.
Dominique Jeune suffered a major head injury on Sept. 30, 2014, when he was hit by a car while riding his bicycle. He died the next day at the age of 15. Mathurin has a tattoo on his left arm that reads: “02.12.1999, Dominique Jeune, 09.30.2014.” Inside Mathurin’s custom red and black suit jacket he wore on NBA draft night is a photograph of himself, Dominique Jeune and Jennifer as children.
“We talk about him all the time,” Jennifer Mathurin said. “He’s in our lives and our thoughts every day. That’s the biggest motivation. Whenever I get down or I know Benn gets down, we’re like, well we have to live for him because he can’t. I just decorated the [Christmas] tree at Benn’s house and one of the ornaments is pictures of us.”
Said Carlisle: “He has been through some very tumultuous with his family life over the last 10 years with the loss of his brother.”
After Dominique Jeune’s death, Mathurin and his mother moved in with his sister’s youth basketball coach, Michel Mettelus, in the safer Montreal suburb of Sainte-Catherine. It was there that Mathurin grew to 6-foot-5, gained weight, got stronger and became an elite basketball player. In 2018, Mathurin became the first Canadian-born student-athlete to join the NBA Academy Latin America in Mexico City. The NBA has academies with the top male and female prospects also in Australia, China, India, and Senegal.
It was Mathurin’s departure to Mexico that made Jennifer Mathurin believe her brother could be an NBA player.
“It was a great platform for him and it’s like [a] direct door to the NBA,” she said. “You get feedback from other coaches who play against them and people that are in the system that’ll say, ‘Yeah, he really could be there.’ And to hear that from people who train NBA stars and are saying that about a 15-year-old is very promising.”
Mathurin averaged 17.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.5 assists as a sophomore at the University of Arizona during the 2021-22 season. The high-flying guard was named the 2022 Pac-12 Player of the Year and a consensus second-team All-American. The Pacers selected Mathurin with the sixth overall pick in the 2022 NBA draft, making him their highest selection since Rik Smits (No. 2 overall) in 1988.
“When we drafted him, we really, really liked him,” Carlisle said of Mathurin. “His upside was tremendously exciting. Had he been a finished product, he could’ve been the No. 1 or 2 pick in the draft.”
Once her brother declared for the NBA draft, Jennifer Mathurin decided it would be important for her to use her basketball experiences and knowledge to help her brother on and off the court. She left a job working for the men’s and women’s basketball programs at Bishop’s University in Quebec to help her brother.
Jennifer Mathurin averaged 7.6 points and 5.2 rebounds for North Carolina State from 2013 to 2017. The 29-year-old also was a member of the 2017 Atlantic Coast Conference All-Academic team.
Mathurin recalls when his sister considered leaving NC State to come back home to help their family.
“She has sacrificed everything in life,” Mathurin said. “She wanted her younger brothers to have a better life. When she was in college, she talked about leaving college to work just so we could have a little bit of money.”
Jennifer Mathurin says she spearheaded interviews with three NBA agents before her brother selected Innovate Sports Group and WME Sports to represent him. Jennifer says she has been using her experiences playing professionally to aid her brother in the business part of the NBA. She also has a master’s degree in social work from NC State that plays a role in aiding her brother. Jennifer Mathurin also says she has taught her brother to focus on reaching his goals within the system of his team no matter the agenda of others, be coachable and be able take constructive criticism.
“I know my brother as much as he is very independent and he’s growing to be an amazing human being, he is also my little baby brother who’s just 20 years old,” Jennifer Mathurin said. “So, I just want to make sure that he’s fair and square and he can grow and learn, but not be too overwhelmed by whatever’s going on right now, because it’s a lot.”
Said Mathurin: “I’m forever grateful. She’s helped me have a better future.”
In terms of basketball advice in general or after games, Jennifer Mathurin says picks and chooses her spots to say something to the self-described “hard-headed” brother.
“She gave me critique a few times. I’m just doing myself, so I’m hard-headed. I don’t really listen. But every time she gives me tips, gives me advice on how to improve,” Mathurin said.
Mathurin wants to “have a big impact on the community” with the help of his sister in two places dear to them: Montreal and Haiti.
While it’s a work in progress, Jennifer Mathurin said, her brother would like to help the youth of Montreal and Haiti with a program that combines education and sports and offers access to sports. Mathurin said his only visit to Haiti came when he was 11 years old.
Having an impact on Haiti is challenging. Gangs control most of the capital Port-au-Prince, an outbreak of cholera has resulted in thousands of deaths in the last decade, and Haiti’s government has made a plea internationally for armed help to stabilize the country, according to The New York Times.
“I get [Haiti] news from my mom,” Mathurin said. “She was born over there. She tries to keep me posted, but it’s pretty rough out there. When I get the possibility, I want to build a school over there. I want to have a big impact on basketball. Also, just trying to enforce the kids just to make them think that pretty much everything’s possible.
“[Montreal-Nord Est] is where I’m going to do it first. Being from Canada, having a lot of friends out there who’s going to be able to help me. So, it’s going to be a great day. I feel like I’m going to have a big impact on the community.”
Said Jennifer Mathurin: “His biggest dream when it comes to Haiti is providing education and ways to access sport for youth. Sadly, that part of our community is not very well developed. They have other fish to fry right now. There’s just a lot of corruption and the militia in the city, so they’re not putting the effort towards that. But education and access to sports is definitely something that interests him, and that’s important for our family.”
Big sister plans on making regular trips to Indianapolis to help her little brother for his first two or three seasons. She understands that a day will come where her brother will be ready to handle everything on his own.
“I wanted to make sure that I come to help him out at least until he was maybe 22, 23,” Jennifer Mathurin said. “I do want him to grow and be his own person. So, after that he could tell me, ‘OK, sis, I think I got it,’ or ‘I want you around.’ And he can make that decision. But the first two years [are] going to be superimportant, in my opinion, to be here.”
This new NBA experience has further strengthened the love and communication between the Mathurin siblings. And when they do communicate, it’s actually in different languages. They grew up speaking French, but they also speak English, Spanish and Creole fluently.
So, what language do they usually speak to each other?
“People ask us all the time, ‘What language are you guys speaking?’ I’m like, ‘Oh, at what point?’ ” Jennifer Mathurin said. “Because we flip. We could be speaking Creole and go to French and go to English and then a couple words in Spanish in one sentence.”