Bennedict Mathurin was known in college as a great offensive player, but it is his defense that he is focusing more on as the Indiana Pacers open up training camp this week.
Mathurin, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, averaged 17.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists and one steal in 37 games last season at Arizona. His 655 points scored ranked ninth in program history, and he shot 45% from the floor and 36.9% from 3-point range.
The sixth pick took part in his first practice on Tuesday and was among the standouts, according to head coach Rick Carlisle. His group was “dominant” throughout its time on the court, especially on defense, which is something Mathurin is looking to showcase.
For me, it’s all about defense. Defense comes first and is what is going to get me on the court. (In) training camp, I have a chance to compete against the greatest players in the world and I’m looking forward to compete pretty much the whole week.
The 6-foot-6, 195-pound Mathurin brings good size to the Pacers at his position that should enable him to handle the physicality of the NBA. He spent much of the summer working on his body and arrives at training camp in great shape.
The Pacers possess quite a bit of athleticism on the roster and believe that will help them on the defensive end. With Myles Turner and Isaiah Jackson in the paint and others behind them, the team believes it can make a jump defensively this year.
Though much of the roster just got together this week, the players are already envisioning how things can come together on the court. Mathurin projects to be a big addition to the lineup that can space the floor and create for himself at times.
Tyrese Haliburton likes the idea of playing with him.
I think he is a guy who is aggressive, a heavy downhill scorer and can score at all three levels. I think playing in pick and roll, I can facilitate really well but I feel like I can score the ball as well. I think that is a pretty natural fit but there is just going to be growth that comes with it.
After finishing with a 25-57 record last season, the Pacers are entering the year looking to improve upon that mark. The group went through quite a few changes last year and is hoping some continuity from the start of the season can help.
Indiana opens up its preseason schedule on Oct. 5.
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Story originally appeared on Rookie Wire