Ben McCauley was a freshman on the Wolfpack basketball team that played in the 2006 NCAA tournament. It was the stuff of dreams for McCauley.
“When you’re in the ‘Big Dance,’ you’re actually playing for what everybody dreams about,” he says. “It’s an amazing feeling.”
What McCauley couldn’t imagine was that it would be six years before a Wolfpack player would get that feeling again. “It’s hard to believe,” he says. “We had a chance my sophomore year, playing in the ACC championship game. It’s too bad for the guys who were one or two years behind me who never got the opportunity.”
McCauley, a 6-foot-9 forward, now plays for the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Mad Ants in the NBA’s Development League, or D-League. Before that, he played professionally in France and Belgium for two years.
“It was a cool experience,” McCauley says of his time overseas. “Everyone is professional, so it’s a lot more competitive (than college). It was also cool just being in Europe. I’ve been to some cool places that I never thought I’d visit.”
McCauley says one of his strangest experiences came during a game in Turkey. He says fans of the home team stood for the entire game, screaming constantly in a language McCauley didn’t understand. He said there was a plastic cover over his team’s bench to protect the players from things thrown from the stands.
“It was kind of like a Duke experience, but different in that you’re worried about your safety,” he says.
The Portland Trailblazers invited McCauley to their training camp in December, but he didn’t make the team. So he signed up with the Mad Ants, hoping that it will help him realize his dream to play in the NBA.
“I’m working on doing the things nobody wants to to — rebounding, playing lockdown defense, making the right passes. Score when the shots come to me,” he says. “You have to find your niche.”
McCauley enjoyed his time in Europe, but says it helps to be back where NBA teams can see him on a regular basis. “You never know who might be watching,” he says. “I love playing basketball. I’d like to keep doing it as long as I have an opportunity and my body is good to go.”
McCauley is excited for the members of the current Wolfpack team, who will play San Diego State in Columbus, Ohio, on Friday.
“It’s something you’re going to remember forever,” he says.