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How the Pacers surprised Bennedict Mathurin with his favorite home-cooked meal from mom
The Pacers' top draft pick is a proud Haitian-Canadian and he grew up enjoying his mom's Haitian food. But he hadn't tasted it in years. That changed last week.
There’s no place like home.
And on Thursday, one day after Bennedict Mathurin and the Pacers opened the season at home against the Washington Wizards, the rookie guard was treated to a taste of home.
First, some background.
The No. 6 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft was born in Montreal, then moved to Mexico City for two years in 2018. He then played two years at the University of Arizona, but has been away from his family full-time since playing at the NBA’s Latin America Academy.
In a piece that was published a month ago on The Players’ Tribune titled, “Indy, I’m All In,” he highlighted growing up with his mother and two siblings. His older brother, Dominique, passed away riding his bicycle when Benn was 12.
The thing that I was most grateful for while growing up is the bond I had with my siblings. I’ve always been close to my sister, we just have a lot of similarities with how we are. And Jennifer was a hooper, too, with a nice shot and some solid handles. But don’t get it confused, she never beat me!! Not once!! Hahahah. (Sorry, Sis.) My brother and I, we shared a small room — and trust me when I say that room was small. We slept on bunk beds and had this tiny closet where we’d put all our clothes. The problem wasn’t sharing the room with my brother, it was how messy he was, haha. Didn’t matter how much we tried to clean the room up. Dominique would have it messy again in seconds.
His sister, Jenn, means the world to him. She was there, along with his mom, Elvie, on draft night in Brooklyn. And that night inside Barclays Center, Mathurin also made clear to me that “my brother is standing right next to me right now.”
And so of course they were going to be in Indianapolis on opening night for Mathurin’s NBA debut. Couldn’t miss it.
But the Pacers had a surprise cooked up as well.
We gotta talk about Haitian food for real. Man — my mom’s rice and beans with chicken?? It’s UNBEATEN!! No one and I mean NO ONE can make it like her.
Karen Atkeson is the Pacers’ vice president of player relations. Like several others inside the organization, she’s spent decades as a loyal employee for the team. For her, it all started in 1997, five years before Mathurin was even born.
Her role is difficult to describe, but simply put, she handles stuff. She ensures the players, staff and their families are taken care of. If they need something, they call Karen or Michael or Jasmine.
Back to this great idea. Elvie and Jenn were coming to Indianapolis since the Pacers’ first three games were at home. And Benn always talks about his mom’s cooking. He even singled it out in the story referenced above.
But Benn estimated that it had been about four years since he enjoyed some home-cooking. That would be right before he left for the NBA Academy, where he told NBA Commissioner Adam Silver that he would be seeing him at the draft soon. And he did.
Atkeson snuck Elvie and Jenn into the team’s practice facility on game day. It was a meal that took 24 hours to prepare properly. And they were assisted by the team’s two full-time chefs, J Jones and Ke’Rece Taylor.
Then, in a video produced by the Pacers, Mathurin’s raw emotions were captured after practice last Thursday as he walked into the food area. Entering with head coach Rick Carlisle, Mathurin first sees the food, then his mom and sister.
He laughed, clapped his hands together five times and then shouted with joy, “Woooo! Hell yeah!”
We know how Mathurin loves the food, but what about Carlisle?
“It’s got some spice to it,” he said, “but it was very tasty. There were two different kinds of rice. The pork was really good. It was marinated I think for 24 hours or something like that so it was tasty. I was impressed with it.
“It was terrific and really elaborate. There were like four different bins of stuff and I only had three. My plate was so full anyway. Benn’s mom and his sister, Jennifer, they did a great job with that.
“And a lot of preparation goes into a meal like that with all the seasoning and marinating. Our two full-time chefs, Chef J and Chef ‘Rece helped them with the preparation. Props to them too.”
It’s actions like this that are meaningful and memorable.
Not only was the entire team treated to something special with this Haitian meal, but the Pacers were able to bring a taste and feeling of home for Mathurin — who’s just 20 years old — to Indianapolis.
His home for the foreseeable future.
Here was the full menu:
Riz Collé (rice and red beans)
Griot (fried pork)
Riz Djonjon (rice and lima beans)
Macaroni gratiné (Haitian Mac and cheese)
Pikliz (spicy side)