It was the dog days of summer of 2017 as COVID was still years away, the Golden State Warriors had just won their second NBA title and Steph Curry was continuing to build on his legacy and Lebron James was still 3 years away from giving the Lakers another chip. I as usual was scanning the transfer market in Germany and preparing interviews and writing new articles about players that were landing in various leagues in Germany. For me one of the greatest things about being able to interview players is learning interesting and exciting facts about them. Usually the first thing I check when I come upon a new player is looking what school they went to. Also seeing who they played together with and observing if there were any future NBA players with him is something I have a lot of fun checking. But for once in my life, checking that data was something that didn’t cross my mind instantly when I learned that Evan McGaughey (203-PF-1994, college: Quincy, agency: Slash Sports) was going to play his rookie season in Germany with the ambitious team MLP Academics who were situated in Heidelberg one of the bigger tourist trapes in Germany, but at the same time a place that has one of the top 5 most recognizable castles in Germany. And in Germany one can’t get enough of castles as there are more than 25,000 in the country that gave the world Boris Becker and Wiener Schnitzel. When I read the name Evan McGaughey, I just took a moment to reflect and think how blessed I was to have a 3 month old son named Evan. I mean Evan is already a rare name and there are even less basketball players with that name. The only 2 that I could gather at the top of my head were Evan Turner and Evan Fournier. For the American when he thinks of the name Evan something distinct pops into his head. ‘I usually think of taller people when Evan comes to mind. It’s weird, but the few Evan’s I know seem to be taller’, stressed Evan McGaughey in 2017.Obviously Evan McGaughey will be remembered for many things on the court, but for me it wasn’t the great things that he did on the court that will be my first thoughts when I read his name, but it will be my son. That summer of 2017 seems like yesterday as time always continues to pass by rapidly, but 5 years later the professional career of Evan McGaughey has come to an end as he recently announced his retirement at the age of 28.
The 203cm forward who hails from Carthage, Illinois and today resides in Cincinnati, Ohio began his basketball career at at Illini West High School: averaging 18ppg, 9.1rpg. He became the career leader in rebounds and blocked shots. He also set school records for most rebounds (16) and blocks (8) in a game. He then continued to play at Quincy (NCAA2) where he played for Marty Bell and John Perry, two guys who believed in his potential and he amassed 98 NCAA 2 games. In school he already got comparisons to Kristaps Porzingis and was most proud of helping Quincy having winning records in his last two seasons. He was able to average in double figures in scoring in every season and finished his last 2 seasons averaging 14,0ppg, 8,0rpg and 2,0apg. He really left his stamp at Quincy and had some massive games hitting William Jewel for 35 points and top program Bellarmine for 30 points. He then began his professional career in Germany for the MLP Academics and right away left his mark in his first professional game netting 24 points against PS Karlsruhe. ‘That might be the most memorable game in my pro career. I think those were the best stats I had in my 5 years and everything just felt great that day’, remembered Evan McGaughey. He needed no time adjusting to the European game averaging 11.8ppg, 6.4rpg, 2.1apg, 1.0spg, FGP: 51.1%, 3PT: 41.6%, FT: 65.0%. His rookie season was the best season that Heidelberg had had in their history which unfortunately was ended in the playoffs by Trier who came back from 2-1 down to win 3-2. He played with so many great players as a rookie like top point guard Shy Ely, German veteran Albert Kuppe and Jaleen Smith who went to the NBA and Euroleague in only 3 years after being his teammate. ‘ It was a lot of fun playing along side Jaleen. He’s the type of player that every team needs. He would run through a brick wall for you if you told him to. We lived together this year and we were able to learn along the way. It’s a different lifestyle over here than it is back home in college, and we had to get used to that. Shy is definitely one of the best players, and all around guys, that I have ever played with. His determination and will to win is unmatched, and that’s why he was the best player in the league this year.’, said Evan McGaughey in 2018. Improving was a huge focus for him at Quincy and he did that and he continued to do that at the pro ranks. ‘I would say the biggest step I made my rookie year was understanding the European game. It was a little bit of an adjustment for me, but this was a great year to gain experience. I’ll use everything I learned this year to continue to get better’, warned Evan McGaughey in 2018.
Staying in one place isn’t as usual for a professional player unless your Rickey Paulding who lasted in Oldenburg for 15 years, but most often the temptation of money will steer a player to that next basketball destination. It wasn’t any different for the Illinois native as he would play his second and third seasons for BK JIP Pardubice (Czech Republic-NBL) averaging 7.8ppg, 4.1rpg, 1.2apg, FGP: 49.7%, 3PT: 36.3%, FT: 66.7%; and in the FIBA Europe Cup averaged 10.7ppg, 4.7rpg, 1.8apg, FGP: 50.0%, 3PT: 29.7%, FT: 60.0% and then played for Benacquista Assicurazioni Latina Basket (Italy-Serie A2) averaging 9.9ppg, 6.4rpg, 1.1apg, FGP: 44.1%, 3PT: 35.4%, FT: 59.3%. But it wasn’t so much about the money but moreover being able to explore and learn something about new cultures. ‘It was great to be able to play in the FIBA Europe Cup. I played against a lot of great players and was able to find out how I stack up against some of the best in Europe. Italy A2 is a very competitive league, and you never know what big name you might face there. Brice Johnson was a lot of fun to play against. You are always ready for the games when a big name like that is in the gym. He’s a really good guy too, I was talking to him and picking his brain the whole game which helped me out along the way’, remembered Evan McGaughey.
In his fourth season the versatile forward who lists Shy Ely, Eric Palm, Dalton Pepper, Dwayne Benjamin, and Andrea Ancelloti as his best teammates of all-time found his way coming back to Germany back to an old stomping ground with the MLP Academics. Here he was a member of the Pro A championship team. It’s only logical that Heidelberg will always be a special place for him. ‘A lot of great memories came from Heidelberg, no doubt. Whenever you win a league championship it will be hard to forget that. I met a lot of great people around the world but I’ve made some lifelong friends with my time in Heidelberg. The best compliment I can give them is that this is one of my favorite places I have played at in my career. I love the city of Heidelberg, and the fans are really supportive of the team here. Management and the coaches are high class as well. I’ve always had great respect for coach Frenki and Matthias. It would be hard not to since they were the ones that ultimately took a chance on me out of college. I’ll always thank them for that’, stressed Evan McGaughey.He had a different role than in his rookie season as his stats dipped to 9.8ppg, 4.0rpg, 1.0apg, FGP: 52.3%, 3PT: 36.9%, FT: 73.8%. The club had a dominant guard lineup with Ely, Geist and Nelson who had the ball in the hands most of the time and also took care of a majority of the scoring. He was a true professional and accepted his lesser role. ‘It was an up and down year for sure. You always want to be the best on your team, but with our talented guards this year they carried most of the load. You have to be willing to buy in and be a positive leader throughout every situation. Lead by example and it makes it easier to be followed’, warned Evan McGaughey.
In his fifth season he would split time for the first time in his pro career with 2 clubs with Club Deportivo Valdivia (Chile-Liga Nacional) averaging 9.3ppg, 5.0rpg, 1.0apg, FGP: 53.3%, 3PT: 30.4%, FT: 0.0%, in Jan.’22 signed at Koping Stars (Sweden-Basketligan) averaging 9.6ppg, 8.5rpg, 2.2apg, FGP: 47.7%, 3PT: 38.3%, FT: 56.3%. He quickly saw how basketball life can be when your away from that family type atmosphere that he witnessed with the MLP Academics ‘. I always wanted to be known as a player to stay loyal to the club for the entire season. Chile just wasn’t a good situation for me though so luckily I have a great agent who was able to get me back to Europe where I knew I would fit’, said Evan McGaughey. Even the beauty of Chille wasn’t able to give him better spirits in South America. ‘It was just a different vibe and culture down there. It’s hard to explain until you experience it yourself. That experience as a whole is just something I couldn’t stand being in for an entire season. I wasn’t able to travel much while I was in Chile. The weather might have been the best part though. Walking to the gym in shorts and a T-shirt in December was great. I loved traveling anywhere I could when I played though. It’s really hard to pick my favorite spot off the court with all of the nice places I’m lucky enough to have visited. I’d say that Prague is at the top of the list, but Rome isn’t far behind’, expressed Evan McGaughey. When he left Chille and came back to Europe, it was like night and day as he was able to find a big smile again showing his basketball abilities in Sweden. ‘I would say the best part about Sweden was that communication was super easy. Nearly everyone there speaks English which is the exact opposite of Chile. Even though I was only there for a few months the team and community was very welcoming’, added Evan McGaughey.
I reach the American who lists guys Brice Johnson, Louis Olinde (early in his career you could tell he had a bright future ahead of him) and Jaromir Bohacik (Nymburk) as his toughest opponents in his career just before he was to depart for a family career. A few days earlier he had officially announced his retirement via Social Media. ‘Retirement has been on my mind the last two seasons. People don’t understand how hard it is to be gone for 8-9 months at a time. Especially when my wife was back home and couldn’t visit. With all the downtime by yourself you start to compare pros and cons’, said Evan McGaughey. The money overall isn’t bad, but not great in second divisions in Europe so one could of thought that money and the temptation of getting better job offers off the court at home could have been an issue for calling it quits, but it actually wasn’t. ‘It wasn’t about the money. I was comfortable the last few years with my salary. It was mainly the fact of being back home with friends and family all year around’, stated Evan McGaughey. I honestly feel that he could have had a 10 + year career, but when your always grinding to get to a first division where there is actually good money can be taxing mentally. ‘It does take a small toll on you. Especially when you know you just need that one chance to take advantage of it. In my case though that never happened, but I still enjoyed my entire playing career’, stressed Evan McGaughey. Obviously Heidelberg will always remain close to his heart. He saw as a rookie the steps the club were taking to one day reach the first division easyCredit BBL and then help the organization make their goal is something that he won’t forget as well as coach Frenki with whom he still has contact today. ‘I could see things starting to form there during my rookie year. Everyone was very excited about the new gym being built and realizing that the BBL wasn’t too far out of reach. It made it easy to go back for the second time knowing that a league championship was the goal. I loved Frenki. I still talk to him a few times during each season. In my rookie season he would let me just go out and play my game. He was confident in me to make the right decisions and play multiple positions’, remembered Evan McGaughey.
The ex Quincy (NCAA2) great who sees Chris Paul as a top 5 NBA player all-time now leaves the court and will start a new chapter in his life. He also remembers exactly how it was when he stepped on the court in Heidelberg to how it was playing his last game in Sweden. He definitely came a long way as a player in 5 years. ‘As a rookie I didn’t really know what I was getting into and what my expectations were. It was easier to settle into each new situation from there on out. On the court I would like to think my game progressed and I was able to be that reliable option that teams were looking for’, commented Evan McGaughey. Most basketball players always call it a blessing to be able to play the game they love as a living, but it must be a second blessing when guys can continue to earn a living with basketball after their playing days. It will be interesting to see what route he takes. ‘I’m not totally sure what the next step will be. I will probably find some way to stay in basketball. It would probably be the easiest thing to step into at this point, but I’m always excited about trying new things in that aspect’, said Evan McGaughey. I had the privilege of interviewing him 5 times and will always remember him as a versatile forward who was a great passer and always kept the team moral up. He also hopes fans worldwide will remember him in a positive way. ‘I would like the fans to remember me as a player who always gave it their all on the court. One who never gave up and didn’t try to cut any corners to get where I was. Someone who always respected the game and tried to put on a show for the fans each game’, warned Evan McGaughey. I will always have a special connection with him through his first name. I simply had to be a fan of him. He definitely has the best name a guy could ever have.