Big Ben Speaks

Ben McCauley reinforces much of what SFN has said about last season, in a surprisingly candid interview with There are several notable passages, but we’ll start with:

I have been here in Raleigh all summer, getting my body right. I have lost 10 to 12 pounds. Last year, I started the season a little heavy. So now I feel good. I had an ankle problem from something that happened in the Clemson game, but it is 100 percent now. I am really looking forward to the season.

Obviously, that’s great news. It was overshadowed by Costner’s lethargy, but Big Ben was clearly a step slower last season. Next:

There are two things, besides the chemistry and the style of play, which was significantly different, that not a lot of people talked about. One was not having Engin Atsur back at the point and then losing Farnold Degand. We were doing well at the beginning of the year with Farnold. We won the Old Spice. We went on a little winning streak for a little bit. We beat Davidson at home, which turned out to be a really good win. When he went down, we had a freshman in Javi Gonzalez and essentially a freshman in Marques Johnson. That is one thing that was overlooked a lot, because everyone was concentrating on everyone not getting along or not playing the right way. That may have been the case sometimes, but we also had some bad luck with injuries and that had some impact on how we played.

Although the line for public consumption last year was that the chemistry was fine, McCauley finally confirms on the record that there were problems. As we said, problems 1A and 1B were PG play (after Farnold went down, went from a C-minus to an F) and the huge rift based on a personal situation. Ben does talk about “style of play” – which can only be a thinly-veiled reference to the “feed Hickson” strategy. But note that even though he was the player most affected by Hickson’s role in the lowpost, Ben paints it as clearly secondary to overall team chemistry and lousy PG play. On that note:

Farnold is lifting, doing a little bit of running, which is good. He’ll be ready come practice time. He is itching to get back and playing. We are itching to have him back.

Like Coach Lowe, Ben is seemingly putting all of his eggs in Farnold’s basket. My contention remains that the fans’ like for Javi’s scrappy style is clouding their judgment on his actual level of play – which was pretty awful. He’s a backup at best, and may not be capable of being a solid backup until his junior season. A good sign for the backcourt? Read on:

The younger guys that are now moving up to be older guys, specifically Trevor and Dennis, are doing really well. Trevor got a lot of confidence at the end of the year. That has given him a lot of confidence.

Confidence is key to Ferguson’s ability to provide passable play at SG. We think he’ll be the starter, and it’s good that his mind seems right going into the season. Here’s a warning flag:

Brandon is playing this summer the way he played in the ACC Tournament. He’s not completely there, but he is on his way. He has lost weight. He is in the gym, lifting, getting stronger. I can personally tell his attitude is different than last year. You can tell there is a little fire in his eyes. He wants to play well for his fellow teammates, specifically Courtney and me.

Maybe I’m seeing too much black cloud and not enough silver lining – but that sounds like evidence of continuing divisions on the team. Fells, Costner, and McCauley are really the last remaining “Sendek guys” – unless you count Dennis Horner. Still, Costner needs to play with fire to be good. But he also needs to be a good teammate, and not just to the guys that were on his side last year. I also interpret this as a veiled shot at Gavin Grant:

We have great guys on the team this year. They have a positive attitude.

Of course, your mileage may vary.

About BJD95

1995 NC State graduate, sufferer of Les and MOC during my entire student tenure. An equal-opportunity objective critic and analyst of Wolfpack sports.

07-08 Basketball 08-09 Basketball

65 Responses to Big Ben Speaks

  1. Rick 08/15/2008 at 10:41 AM #

    I have no idea what to expect.
    I have decided to expect very little and maybe I will be pleasantly surprised.
    If there is player division this year it bodes poorly for Lowe. It means he cannot manage egos which seems to be as important as coaching when you have the top players on your team.

  2. pakfanistan 08/15/2008 at 10:42 AM #

    I think you’re spending too much time in the tea leaves. The last two quotes especially are a stretch. Maybe he’s focused on them because they’re from the same recruiting class and they’ll all be gone after this year? That makes a lot of sense to me.

    As for the last statement, it’s only meaningful if you emphasize the words ‘this year’ the way you did. Unless you heard him emphasize those words that way, it’s impossible to infer that type of meaning. It sounds like typical sports talk jargon to me. “We have great guys on the team this year. I just want to go out there and win some games for my momma and Jesus.” The same kind of thing EVERY athlete says.

    About the Costner/Grant situation, what proof is there for that? As far as I can tell, it’s a rumor that was started on TWW that picked up steam because they need some reason for Costner to suck last yaer.

  3. EverettBeez 08/15/2008 at 10:45 AM #

    Nice summation BJD – and great last line.

  4. Bynum State Fan 08/15/2008 at 10:50 AM #

    We at NC State need to stick to our strengths. Finess has never been what we’re about, and McCauley or Costner are exactly that. I have yet to see Sidney use his street cred and get some ballers in here that we need to turn this program around from being a pushover, to one who pushes. I don’t know if Valvano had some kind of power (Mafia type), but he was able to get the Chris Washburns in here that gave NC State the intimidation factor it needed to put away other teams. Sidney needs to not only use his strength, but take a page out of what made NC State so successful, which is getting players that everyone feared at all times. Yeah, some may call us thugy or Big East, but that is the type of reputation Sidney has built for himself, and we need to use it as best we can. Sidney, use your power of pursuasion and get some Latrell Sprewell, Ron Artest, Ben Wallaces up in here, we all know you can do it.

  5. Bynum State Fan 08/15/2008 at 10:53 AM #

    Also, Matt Doherty (former coach at UNC) used his street cred and got Rashad McCants & Gang to go to UNC, and that team went on to win the ACC and National Championship.

  6. choppack1 08/15/2008 at 10:58 AM #

    Interesting quotes.

    First off, one thing that really concerns me is the continued “we were playing good until we lost Farnold” statement.

    We definitely started off OK. However, we also lost to UNO and ECU. And there was those not-too impressive performances against UNC-P and W&M.

    This ignores the fact that we started the ACC season at 4-4 w/out Degand.

    I guess my main thought is that if this team and coaching staff think that we played w/ Farnold in the first half of the season is OK – then we won’t ever be anything special.

    Also, about the playing for Courtney and Ben bit – this worries me too. I’m more than a little concerned that we still seem to be ripe for more chemistry issues – and that possibly not enough has been done to bridge the gap between the former staff’s players and the new staff. (And I’m not blaming anyone specifically…)

  7. Bynum State Fan 08/15/2008 at 10:58 AM #

    I don’t want to run our current group of folks down. We have all seen what they can do at their best. Let’s make the best of this group that we have right now and try to inspire them to go .500 in the ACC. That would be remarkable. But after this class is said & done, Sidney had better get those ballers in here. And please refs, this year, when you see that Duke is about to be defeated by us, do not change your strategy & officiating mid-game to ensure a rescue.

  8. Bynum State Fan 08/15/2008 at 11:02 AM #


    I agree with your statement. We have players that seem to have different agendas, and are not cohesive as a unit.

  9. vtpackfan 08/15/2008 at 11:05 AM #

    “everyone was concentrating on everyone not getting along”

    Including the Athletic Director when giving an interview on a sports radio show. Hearing him utter those words, echoing the very same anonymous commentors he rails as useless, was the last straw for me.

    I had given him the benifit of the doubt by and large up until then but at that moment he was completely ineffective in job and the most base core. You do not speak negatively about this young mena in public in any circumstance as the top administrator. Let your stance be known within the framework of the chain of command, the system either works or it doesn’t. It is the coach and coach only perogative to air any dirty laundry for fans and followers.

    I love the McAuley’s effort but I don’t understand why people worship his game, or upside to it. He is a solid, slightly above average ACC player in a time when there happens to be less depth of great players in the ACC.

  10. Bynum State Fan 08/15/2008 at 11:12 AM #

    We need for our BigBen to be Ben Wallace, not Ben McCauley. I can tell you Ben Wallace wouldn’t let a pesky Paulus drive right into the middle of the lane & score a bucket on us. He’d let’em know how skinny Paulus was right off the bat.

  11. choppack1 08/15/2008 at 11:32 AM #

    vtpackfan – About the AD – you are correct. He doens’t need to communicate why things broke down – that’s not really important. What matters is that things broke down – and regardless of why, breakdowns of this magnitude are not acceptable.

  12. tooyoungtoremember 08/15/2008 at 11:41 AM #

    I agree with packfanistan. A little too much was read into a few of those quotes. But with that being said, I wonder if McCauley was nudged by someone else within the program to be that candid during the interview or if he did it on his own accord. If it’s the latter, I hope he hasn’t gotten himself into any trouble with the coaches of the rest of the team.

    And Bynum State, give it a rest. You say the same thing over and over and I’m starting to just skip over reading your comments.

  13. BJD95 08/15/2008 at 11:58 AM #

    Yes, I could be reading too much into some of the quotes. Maybe, maybe not. That’s why I added the line about mileage varying.

    I am 99.9% confident that the Grant/Costner thing was very, very real. Sourcing is definitely not TWW.

    I think Ben’s candor is a good thing. Sunshine is the best disinfectant, after all.

    Before Degand’s injury (about the same time as the event that blew team chemistry all to hell), we weren’t GOOD, but we showed flashes of being pretty decent. We were just extremely inconsistent.

    Down the stretch, we were pretty consistent in our shittiness. IMHO, we only had a better first half ACC record because of how the schedule broke out.

  14. wufpup76 08/15/2008 at 12:12 PM #

    “He wants to play well for his fellow teammates, specifically Courtney and me.”

    I read this more as a “wanting to send the seniors out on a high note” quote … at least, I hope that’s all it was

    The last quote seems pretty generic / routine to say …

    For the record, I do love my little Javi – but agree that Farnold should get the starting nod if he is 100% (or close) … Farnold has way more defensive prowess than Javi at this point and seemed to be finding his way in running the team prior to the injury

  15. packalum44 08/15/2008 at 12:35 PM #

    favors has narrowed his list down to 6 schools and we made the cut…i think 15% shot is very reasonable estimate…also seems that top 40 recruit and favor’s AAU teammate noel johnson might be visiting raleighwood in the fall…6’6″ shooting gaurd…think athletic version of woods (no slight on woods, the kid put up 40+ against tough AAU competition!) go Lowe and Harris!

  16. Noah 08/15/2008 at 12:39 PM #

    I have vowed not to say anything negative this year about the basketball team or the people running it (this will expire the day after the Final Four in 2009).

    Therefore, I will only say…I can’t wait until football season.

  17. McPete 08/15/2008 at 12:52 PM #

    That bit about putting all our eggs in the Farnold Degand basket worries me, since he hasn’t played a full season of competitive ball in what, 3 years? he’s never done it consistently on this level, and he’s rehabbing from a major knee injury. look at the problems toney baker is having. what’s our back-up plan at point guard? javi and julius mays. that worries me greatly.

  18. Elrod 08/15/2008 at 1:31 PM #

    I have a question that some of you may help me explore or understand better. There have been a lot of comments about the offense being run through JJ Hickson and his inability or unwillingness to pass the ball. One of the things I watched last year was this very thing, especially after folks started complaining about his trouble with double-teams, etc. The most consistent thing I saw was that players rarely cut to the basket to give JJ an available passing outlet. It was almost like everyone was waiting on him to make a Superman move against two or three defenders. The way I was taught basketball was that the best way to beat a double-team was to go to the rim when your defender left to double-team your big man. Our players rarely did that. Is that JJ’s fault?

  19. choppack1 08/15/2008 at 1:51 PM #

    Elrod – I think in today’s game – it’s more likely for the big man to look to someone on the wing for kickout for a 3. But still, I see where your coming from – and I have no idea why either our players weren’t coached to do that or allowed to stay in the game if they ignored those instructions.

  20. Mike 08/15/2008 at 2:02 PM #

    Bynum, I would much rather lose every game with quality people than win with thugs.

    There is some need for attitude and determination, but Washburn, Wallace, Artest etc. NO THANKS! I will root for Orange County boys in blue before I would root for thugs.

  21. Rochester 08/15/2008 at 2:11 PM #

    ^Yeah, it’s one thing to worry about losing a game, it’s another thing to worry after finals in December about losing players to academic failure (or jail). We can find guys who play with toughness who aren’t goons. We’re not Temple.

  22. Elrod 08/15/2008 at 2:13 PM #

    I understand exactly what you’re saying, chop. Best example I can give is from our hated rivals at BBU. If someone doubles-down on Handjob, what happens? A slashing wing gets a crowd-pleasing dunk or, if the slasher is covered, a quick pass to the opposite side for an open 3. That’s one reason why Handjob was not doubled that often; it was team suicide. Could we do that? Sure, but for whatever reason we valued something else more than effective teamwork.

  23. GoldenChain 08/15/2008 at 2:36 PM #

    “…but he was able to get the Chris Washburns in here that gave NC State the intimidation factor it needed to put away other teams”

    That is perhaps the poorest example you could offer! Perhaps the NYC connections or the DC connections but Washburn played almost one whole season and (at least in my mind) started the downhill tumble for Jimmy V.
    I certainly agree that we need to get people on the mat and take it to them!!! Seems like for 12 years now, if we win we barely win and when we get beat we get beaten badly.

  24. Wolf-n-Atl 08/15/2008 at 2:58 PM #

    I think I remember reading on here last year that going into the season someone with ties to the team was worried because there was a lack of work ethic and general focus on the upcoming season. I wonder what the evaluation is this year compared to last year.

    As far as what happened last year… you don’t have to like your team mates off the court, but on the court you have to put the bullshit aside and get the job done. I have played with plenty of jerks, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t keep trying to do my best.

  25. Bynum State Fan 08/15/2008 at 3:16 PM #

    Look here TooYoungToRemember, the reason I seem to repeat myself on this topic is because it is an important one to be noticed, especially for those that ARE too young to remember. It wasn’t always this way. There is no need to go after finess, if that’s what you call a lack of motivation, when we have a coach with good enough street-cred (his son actually helped him gain some of that)to get the real ballers into our program. Let’s go State!!!

Leave a Reply