Ben McCauley admitted that playing without NC State in front of his jersey was a different feeling at the Portsmouth Invitational on April 8-11 in Portsmouth, Va.
McCauley and former teammate Courtney Fells were both invited to the tournament and played well in there three various games.
McCauley averaged 11.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, and added three blocks, finishing tied for 19th in scoring. He shot 17 of 46 from the field for 37.0 percent, and was even teammates with former ACC rival Tyrese Rice of Boston College.
"It was really weird, but kind of a wake-up call that is the way it will be from now on," McCauley said. "It will be organized basketball without wearing NC State red. It's different but it was exciting. I had some great teammates and it was cool meeting new people.
"I think I did solid at Portsmouth, but I didn't do anything completely outstanding. I don't think I did anything to hurt myself."
Fells ranked right behind McCauley at 20th in scoring after averaging 11.3 points per game, plus he added 3.0 rebounds and 1.3 steals a contest. He also shot a percentage a little lower than hoped for at 13 of 37 for 35.1 percent, which was skewed by going 1 of 14 in the final game. Fells did rank 12th in the camp after shooting 41.7 percent from three-point range (5 of 12).
"I felt like maybe I would have had an advantage in telling the guys how to guard him if we played each other," McCauley said. "I watched him every game. His first game was phenomenal and he was really knocking down his shots. His last game he didn't shoot well, but he was doing other things."
McCauley and Fells almost played each other, but the matchup never materialized. He still watched Fells when he played and supported him.
McCauley knows the next chapter in his life, wherever basketball takes him in the world, will be radically different than the protected atmosphere of college basketball and being a student. It's a challenge he's looking forward to.
"I was a little worried and anxious to see what happens next," McCauley said. "I'm excited for what is to come. I hope I can go on and play basketball for another 15 years, as long as my body will let me. This is the start of that chapter.
"I enjoy playing basketball so much and being part of a team and the camaraderie that you have. I want it to definitely continue. I'm very fortunate and very blessed to have that opportunity."
He was thankful that his teammates at Portsmouth weren't overly selfish with their shot selection and felt everyone had a chance to show what they could do.
"I've been working on my jump shot a lot because I know that I won't just be a back-to-the-basket center on the next level," McCauley said. "I tried to step out a little bit at Portsmouth but I played under control.
"If I didn't get the shots I wanted, I knew there was plenty of other things that take place on a basketball court. I tried hustling, rebound and other things."
McCauley will be earning his degree in sports management at NC State this spring and has been working out at the Wolfpack practice facility. McCauley can't work out for any NBA teams until he graduates, which occurs May 9. He still hopes to eventually work at a golf course.
"Now, it's just a matter of continuing to work out and make sure my body is ready for the next step," McCauley said. "We have great facilities at NC State, so I can take full advantage of that.
McCauley said the feedback he has received from his agent and NC State coach Sidney Lowe is that a handful of NBA teams would like to work him out once he graduates.
"If the NBA doesn't work out, I would much enjoy the fact of going overseas. I would never had dreamed growing up of being a young kid in a small town in Western Pennsylvania that I'd be able to go to Europe to play a game."
McCauley said after playing in front of such great support from Wolfpack fans, it will be different at the next level.
"The fans were great and anywhere I went they were always talking to me about basketball or asking how things are going," McCauley said. "That is the love they have for NC State basketball. It's really phenomenal and I thank all of them for all the support they have given me personally and the team.
"The fans always stuck with us and kept cheering us on even though we had some rough years the past couple of years. It was a great part of my life that I will never forget."