Matisse Thybulle’s mind was on his mom.
Shortly after he was selected No. 20 ovrerall by the Philadelphia 76ers in Thursday’s NBA Draft, a tearful Thybulle spent his first interview talking about the impact Elizabeth Thybulle had on his life. She died in 2015 after a battle with leukemia.
“I wish she was here to see it,” Thybulle told ESPN.
Thybulle said he was most looking forward to using his new platform to help others. That’s something he learned from his mother, who was a naturopathic doctor.
“She never let anything stop her from doing what she wanted to do,” Thybulle said. “You saw that from when she became a doctor and it was basically a trend throughout her whole life. I try to be like that.
“My mom was a doctor. She took care of people so I just try to give back as much as I can. I feel like basketball has given me the stage to do that and now being in the NBA, I think I’ll have even more of a stage to do that now.”
The 76ers sent picks No. 24 and No. 33 to the Boston Celtics for Thybulle, who thrived in UW head coach Mike Hopkins’ 2-3 zone and established himself as one of the top defenders in the country over the past two seasons. As a senior, he led the country with 3.5 steals per game and was 18th in blocks per game with 2.3. He was one of just three players to average at least 2.0 steals and 2.0 blocks in the last 20 seasons.
“I think the defense is really the primary sell,” said Sports Illustrated NBA Draft analyst Jeremy Woo. “He’s obviously very athletic. He covers a lot of ground. He’s long. He’s a great shot blocker. He blocks a lot of shots from behind in that zone.”
The back-to-back Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, Thybulle was also named the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year and was the recipient of the Lefty Driesell Award, which is given to the nation’s top defensive player. He became the 15th UW player selected in the first round. Most recently, the 76ers made Markelle Fultz (Orlando Magic) the No. 1 overall pick in 2017.
Thybulle finished his UW career with 330 steals, breaking the Pac-12 record set by Gary Payton. He recorded 126 steals last season, which set the conference single-season record previously held by Jason Kidd. His 182 career blocks also rank in the top 20 in Pac-12 history.
The only player in the last 20 seasons to record 100 steals and 70 blocks in the same season, Thybulle was also named to the All-Pac-12 first team and all-defensive team. He was an AP All-America honorable mention selection and the AP Pac-12 Player of the Year.
“There’s always a question with the players who played primarily in a zone defense but for Matisse, I don’t think there’s really any question,” said Kyle Boone, a draft analyst for CBS Sports. “I think he’s the draft’s best defender. His length is really beneficial for him and again, I go back to the point that he has really high instincts when it comes to anticipating passes and things like that.”
Thybulle averaged 9.1 points and 3.1 rebounds per game last season. He started all 135 games of his UW career and finished with 1,240 points. He shot 41.5 percent from the field and 30.5 percent from the 3-point line as a senior.
“You’ve seen his 3-point shooting percentages tail off but he’s got a good-looking shot mechanics and I think it will translate to the NBA,” Boone said. “I think you have to hope that he figures out his shot in a more open system in the NBA. I think it will actually be pretty friendly to him.”
Philadelphia finished with a 51-31 regular-season record last season and advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals.