At this point in the recruiting cycle, you may figure you have a handle on all the truly elite blue chip names that Stanford Basketball can recruit and is recruiting. A couple kids may still "blow up" in July and enter Top 100 status in this class, but more likely the new names that arise will be late-bloomers or project players.
This is the exception to the rule, though. Ben McCauley is a nationally prized power forward who is Top 75 player and rising, yet Stanford only got involved in his recruitment this spring. With a 3.4 GPA and a 1020 SAT (scheduled June retake), he is reputed as one of the more cerebral players at his level in the East.
"He's long and he's quick, which turns the heads of coaches," says his AAU coach, Hal Kastler, of the Pittsburgh JOTS program. "But what makes him really unique is that he has the grades that will get him into any school who wants him."
McCauley first built his national reputation last summer as a small forward with perimeter skills, but he has grown and added muscle to his frame. Now the 6'9" 230-pound junior has the body and ability to play in the low post, while still stepping out to the high post.
"He can shoot the three or drive. He has small forward skills. Good jumping ability, and he's not slow for his size," Kastler comments. "On defense, he gets up in the passing lanes like nobody I've ever seen - better than any 6'2" kid. I'd still like to see him improve his post defense - front the post and rely on the help side."
"Ben is the biggest thing in Western Pennsylvania in the last 15 years," his AAU coach boasts. "At least the level of Danny Fortson, and that was 10 years ago."
McCauley's offer list reflects that status, with full rides promised by Pittsburgh, Penn State, Ohio State, Villanova, Duquesne, Cincinnati, Xavier, North Carolina State and UCLA. That is a deep list of the top regional suitors, but the presence of the Bruins out West is interesting. We have seen many a Stanford recruitment of a East Coast or Midwestern kid, where the Cardinal are conspicuously alone in their fight to pull the recruit thousands of miles from home. A fellow Pac-10 pursuer gives some support to the notion of traveling West for college.
"If Stanford or UCLA is where I end up feeling the best, then distance won't really matter to me," McCauley declares. "If I would drive to Cincinnati or Xavier, that would be a four-hour drive, which is the same as a four-hour flight to California."
The junior forward from Yough Senior High School in Herminie (Penn.), 30 miles south of Pittsburgh, says that all his schools are "on an even scale" at this time, but he does single out a few who could hold an advantage come the fall.
"As of right now, Stanford is a real option," premier power forward begins. "Stanford is different, though, in that you have to apply to the school and get accepted... I would very much like to out to the campus to meet the coaches and the players. I want to try to take an official visit in the fall once school starts. That way I can keep them fresh in my mind when it is time to make my decision. I have been busy with basketball tournaments every weekend this spring, but I think the fall is when [the official visits] will happen."
When asked what other schools McCauley would like to officially visit, he lists UCLA, NC State and Xavier. He does cover himself, though, with one caveat.
"If I have an even better summer this year than I did last year, more schools could jump in and offer me. That could change things," he cautions.
McCauley says that he has a Stanford admissions application in hand and is currently working through it. "I know this is a big deal, so I need to get it done right," he comments.
For a recruit of this caliber to be so strongly considering Stanford, at a considerable distance, is exciting. Especially given that the Cardinal are late arrivers to this party, relative to several of the programs who offered before McCauley started his junior season. He does recognize, though, the limited contact he has had thus far with Stanford, and says that there is something specific he wants to do to take the next step.
"Coach [Russell] Turner came to my school and visited me a couple weeks ago," he explains for the background. "The send me mail every day now. But I would really like to talk to Coach Montgomery. All my interactions so far have been with the assistants, and I would love to start to get to know the head coach."
Ben McCauley will play with the JOTS next weekend at the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions in North Carolina, and then in June he will travel to Virginia for the NBA Players Association Camp. In July he will rejoin the JOTS for a tournament in Morgantown (W.Va.), followed by the Super Showcase and AAU Nationals - both in Orlando (Fla.).
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