MONTREAL, Quebec — Less than six months after being named Maine’s Mr. Basketball, Christian McCue already is testing himself at the next level.
The Hampden Academy graduate recently joined the rest of his new team at McGill University for a two-week preseason camp that culminated with exhibition games against NCAA Division I opponents Northeastern and Nevada-Las Vegas.
The Redmen, who compete during the winter in the CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport), lost both games, but McCue came off the bench to average 8.0 points in 27.5 minutes per game.
“My acclimation to McGill has definitely been a very different experience for me,” McCue, a 6-foot-2 freshman guard, said in an email. “It is safe to say our two-week pre-season training camp was intense. The first couple of days I was taken aback by the speed of the game and level of physicality that the players played with in practice.”
McCue, who is being joined at McGill by older brother Daniel, now an assistant coach with the Redmen after helping MIT reach the NCAA Division III Final Four last winter, also has had to adapt to a European style of play quite different from American high school basketball.
“Almost our entire practice is scrimmaging and almost everything we do is pick and rolls, which is unlike any team I’ve played for before,” he said. “The games are also FIBA (International Basketball Federation) rules, including a 24-second shot clock. It has been an adjustment to say the least, but I feel like it does suit my game well.”
The NCAA allows college basketball teams one exhibition tour outside the country every four years and many head to Canada, providing McGill several such opponents each year to help prepare for its regular season, which begins in November.
The Redmen went 2-5 against NCAA Division I teams last year with wins over New Hampshire and Niagara, and this year McGill has several preseason games scheduled against U.S. competition this fall, including the already-played matchups against Northeastern and UNLV.
“To be honest, I was nervous before both the games, especially the UNLV game,” said McCue, who led Hampden Academy to the Eastern Maine Class A championship last winter. “I have always wondered if I could play at a Division I level, and I not only wanted to prove it to my new coaches, but to myself and naysayers from the past.”
In his debut against Northeastern, McCue had eight points — including 2 of 8 shooting from beyond the 3-point arc — with six rebounds, two assists and three turnovers in 26 minutes as McGill stayed within one point (58-57) through three quarters before the Huskies pulled away to an 80-66 victory.
Two days later, McCue again scored eight points with three rebounds, one assist and one turnover in 29 minutes during McGill’s 74-59 loss to UNLV, but he left that experience relatively content with his first exposure to major college basketball.
“Actually, the first play of my college career [against Northeastern] involved me trying to run a play, getting the ball picked from me, and then my man windmill dunking on me,” said McCue. “It was a definite ‘welcome to the league’ moment.
“But after that I made the adjustment and felt I held my own very well for the next two games and even contributed significantly. It was a great experience to play against some of the best collegiate players in the country, and I am seriously looking forward to continuing to grow and see what else I can do against some of these American DI teams, and also when the regular season comes around compete for a Canadian national championship.”