Westmoreland Where Are They Now? Ben McCauley

The former Yough standout is still playing professional basketball in Puerto Rico

Fri Aug 12, 2022 - 9:55AM

Sean Meyers Sean Meyers
Yough's Ben McCauley averaged 15.8 points per game playing with Brujos de Guayama in Puerto Rico this season.Yough's Ben McCauley averaged 15.8 points per game playing with Brujos de Guayama in Puerto Rico this season.

Last Updated: Fri Aug 12, 2022 - 1:44PM

When Ben McCauley helped propel Yough to a WPIAL boys basketball championship appearance in 2005, it was clear that he was a special talent on the hardwood. Nearly two decades later, McCauley is still playing at a high level, as he recently wrapped up another successful season of professional basketball in Puerto Rico. McCauley is featured in the latest installment of Westmoreland Where Are They Now?

During his time at Yough, McCauley enjoyed tremendous individual success, but the Cougars initially sputtered in the playoffs. In his junior campaign in 2003-04, Yough went 16-9 overall, including 12-2 in the section, but fell to South Park in the first round of the WPIAL AAA postseason, the third consecutive first-round exit.

His senior season was a different story, however. Although Yough again went 12-2 in the section, the Cougars edged Thomas Jefferson in the WPIAL first round, which was a significant accomplishment in McCauley’s varsity career.

“To get over the hump gave us that momentum to say we can really make a special run here,” he noted of the elusive playoff triumph.

From there, the Cougars followed with narrow wins against Knoch and Hopewell to reach the title game. Although Yough lost to Moon Area 69-42 at the AJ Palumbo Center, the atmosphere and the circumstances surrounding the game were aspects that McCauley will never forget.

For a school that lacked a rich history in boys basketball, Yough’s community embraced the run to the title game, as buses of fans made the trek to Pittsburgh.

“It was really, pretty cool,” he said. “We were able to get them excited for basketball for that nice stretch there.”

Additionally, McCauley’s grandfather passed away just two days before the showdown against Moon. Both he and his younger brother, Andrew, suited up for the game with a heavy heart.

“He’s got the best seat in the house, looking down watching us play,” McCauley stated of his grandfather.

Yough also won a state playoff game that season, and ended with a mark of 20-9.

McCauley is still the school's all-time leading scorer, as he totaled 2,283 career points.

His fondest memories from Yough, though, revolve around playing with his siblings. When he was a freshman, McCauley was on the same team as his other brother, John.

“I don’t think I really relished it at the time,” he said of playing with his brothers. “That’s something that not many people get to do, and it’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. It was a pretty special thing to be able to do.”

His strong play with the Cougars yielded a slew of local college interest, including offers from Pitt, Penn State, and Ohio State. However, McCauley opted to continue his career at North Carolina State, playing under Pittsburgh native Herb Sendek in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC).

“That, to me, I thought was just the mecca,” he said of the ACC, including showdowns with North Carolina and Duke. “I also just kind of wanted to get away from home. I wanted to challenge myself and try a different state and grow a little bit.”

After playing limited minutes as a freshman, McCauley was thrust into a significant role as a sophomore with the Wolfpack in 2006-07. A coaching change reduced the roster to just seven scholarship players. Averaging more than 34 minutes per game, McCauley produced 14.1 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game. Among the team highlights that year, NC State scored a home upset of third-ranked UNC, an outcome that resulted in his dad and brother rushing the court after the final whistle. The Wolfpack also reached the final of the ACC Tournament, but fell in a rematch against UNC.

Although McCauley’s individual numbers dipped the next campaign, he produced a game-winning tip-in dunk against Wake Forest that stands out among his favorite college moments.

McCauley became a featured contributor once again as a senior, as he notched averages of 11.9 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 1.9 assists in 28 games.

Although he was not selected in the NBA Draft, McCauley earned Summer League invites with the Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando Magic in consecutive years. In his first year, he went up against Blake Griffin, who was the top pick and has since enjoyed a stellar NBA career.

“He was just amazing to watch and play against,” McCauley revealed. “His leaping ability was as impressive, if not more, in person than it was watching him when he was at Oklahoma.”

Despite those opportunities, as well as a stint with the Portland Trailblazers during their training camp in 2011, McCauley never played in an NBA game during the regular season. However, he’s played in some of the top international leagues for more than a decade, beginning in France in 2009. He’s subsequently played in Belgium, France again, the NBA D League with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, Poland, Ukraine, Spain, Turkey, Israel, Poland again, and Puerto Rico.

McCauley wrapped up his third season with Brujos de Guayama in Puerto Rico earlier this season, as he averaged 15.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 3.2 assists at center and power forward. Playing much closer to home and in a warmer climate has been a welcome sight for McCauley, whose wife Mollie can make the trek from their home in Cary, North Carolina to Puerto Rico for a weekend visit.

“It’s definitely like South Florida. You certainly feel comfortable, feel safe,” he noted. “The weather is fantastic. The older I get, I’d much rather wake up to 80 degrees than 15 degrees in Poland. It helps the joints and muscles warm up a little bit faster.”

All of his previous stops throughout Europe were memorable in their own way, however.

“My three years in Turkey were pretty great. I got to know a lot of friends who I’m still with today,” said McCauley.

However, he also experienced the harsh reality of life in some of these countries, as he was nearby during a car bombing in Turkey that prompted him and teammates to hide in the kitchen of a restaurant. He also was forced to leave Ukraine when Russia invaded Crimea nearly a decade ago.

“As a small-town boy from West Newton, PA, these kind of things you never expect would happen to you, but it certainly makes you grow as a young man and makes you realize that there’s a lot of crazy things in the world and not everything revolves around you,” he said.

As for the caliber of basketball, McCauley pointed to Spain and Turkey as the top leagues in which he played.

“If you talk to a lot of people, they would agree, behind the NBA, Spain is right there,” he noted.

While McCauley continues to produce on the hardwood and his body feels good, he will turn 36 next month and Mollie is expecting their first child in February, about a month before the next season will commence in Puerto Rico.

“I need to have a nice, long conversation with my wife on what the plan is,” he said regarding his playing future.

As each year passes since his time at Yough, McCauley has fewer and fewer ties to Westmoreland County. After graduating NC State in 2009, he initially lived back close to home, but realized that he needed a different approach in order to maximize his career.

“I found that after my first couple of years, I was still living outside of Pittsburgh, and I just wasn’t able to get the workouts and the pickup games that I wanted,” he detailed.

Moreover, his parents have since relocated to Florida, while his siblings are spread out across the South and West.

His most recent stop home came earlier this summer, though, when he was inducted into the Mid Mon Valley Hall of Fame in Monessen.

Whenever he starts the next chapter of his life, McCauley is still undecided on what path he’ll take, but he’s almost certain sports will be involved.

“I would love to stay in the sports realm, whether it be basketball or even golf, but time will tell,” said McCauley, who also played four years of golf at Yough and considers it his biggest hobby.

“I could see myself maybe coaching at a high school level and trying to teach kids at a younger level who are willing to listen and who want to learn,” he continued. “I’ve been playing basketball my whole life, so it’s certainly something I know.”