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Hollinger: Arizona’s Ben Mathurin an underrated NBA Draft prospect

Arizona guard Bennedict Mathurin (0) dunks against Arizona State during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Jan. 25, 2021, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Ben Mathurin is the Arizona Wildcats’ third-leading scorer this season, and he’s done it as one of their youngest players.

The 18-year-old freshman has the makings of a solid young player, but The Athletic’s John Hollinger has the guard ranked on his list of undervalued NBA Draft prospects.

Mathurin is producing at a decent clip, averaging 11 points, four boards and an assist per game. However, his athleticism and potential to play above the rim make him a first-round player.

Mathurin is clearly an NBA-caliber athlete with his size and leaping ability. One hopes that we can see him use that athleticism more consistently on the court as he continues developing.

Despite his lanky 6-foot-7 frame and superb athleticism, he’s still developing his game and at times doesn’t utilize the physical advantage he has.

Mathurin has struggled slightly on the defensive end, as he has only blocked one shot all season and is averaging 0.8 steals per game.

One hopes that we can see him use that athleticism more consistently on the court as he continues developing. Mathurin looks stiff moving at times … and doesn’t impact the game as much athletically as you might think.

While Mathurin is still figuring out how to use his body and his athleticism to his advantage, he’s been accurate from beyond the arc and at the line over the course of the season.

He’s at 41.6 percent from 3 and 85.5 percent from the line in his freshman season, while drawing fouls at a surprisingly high rate for a player whose game is mostly 3s and straight-line drives.

While Mathurin has been connecting from deep, he’s been a very boom or bust player on a game-by-game basis for Arizona. Mathurin has seen decent playing time, averaging 24.5 minutes per game, but has scored seven or fewer points in eight games.

Mathurin scored 14 points in Arizona’s win over Washington State on Thursday but had scored a combined 10 points in the Wildcats three previous contests, connecting on 2 of 17 shots over that span.

While Mathurin has been passive at times, he has held his own in Pac-12 play.

He’s been genuinely good as a young freshman in a major conference, has obvious pathways to getting better, and has a size and skill combo that is massively in demand around the league.

Hollinger projects that Mathurin will be a late first-round prospect, but also adds that staying at Arizona an additional year would boost his draft stock in 2022.