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Ben McCarthy‘s introduction to the faceoff world was humbling, to say the least.
It’s hard to imagine that when you look at where McCarthy is now. Tabbed as the No. 2 overall player in the class of 2024 and its top faceoff midfielder, the Haverford School (Pa.) and Freedom standout collected All-Inter-Ac honors as a sophomore. That’s an impressive enough feat. Then you add All-Star nods, oh, just about everywhere he went this summer, and you see why he was such a hot commodity for everyone.
It didn’t start that way, though. When you’ve got an older brother in the trade, you’re going to take your lumps, especially when you have no desire to go up against him.
“My brother used to beat me up pretty bad,” McCarthy said of his older brother, Jake, a freshman at Merrimack. “If it weren’t for him dragging me along to trainings and making me practice, I wouldn’t even be facing off.”
He’s come a long way, to say the least. Thursday, McCarthy added another feather in his cap. The Philly Face-Off League protégé issued a verbal commitment to Duke, becoming the Blue Devils’ second top-10 commit of the day after NLF No. 8 Luke Hublitz (Brunswick, Conn. / Eclipse) verballed.
Duke Lands a Beast
“When I got to campus, I just kind of knew that this was the place where I wanted to be,” McCarthy said. “I was hanging out with the guys on the team and my gut told me that this is where I belonged. I took a day to think about it, but my mind kept going back to Duke. It just came down to intuition.”
The Blue Devils are not only getting a dominant presence at the stripe. Sure, McCarthy’s got an array of moves and enough technique to counter anything thrown his way, but it’s his athleticism and ability to play the field that separate him from everyone. On the club circuit, McCarthy often took faceoff wings when his teammate, NLF No. 59 ’24 and Georgetown commit Ross Prince (Springside Chestnut Hill, Pa.) did his damage at the stripe. He’s a fast-break threat after a win, but he can also dodge from any spot on the field. There’s a good chance that you could see an expanded role for him for the Fords this year as they aim to reclaim Inter-Ac supremacy.
Versatility is Key
“With Freedom, we never just took faceoffs. We were always part of middie lines, so I felt grateful that I had all of this middie experience after the faceoff rules changed going into high school,” McCarthy said. “When I got to high school, I started to focus more on faceoffs, but I still get to practice to be a better field player every day at Haverford.”
“John Bodnar’s also kind of been the centerpiece to getting me opportunities to get better, and I’d bet that every Philly faceoff guy would say the same,” McCarthy said. “I’d be a lot further behind without him. It’s easy to take it easy when you’re a faceoff guy, but when you go train there, you’re doing it all. It’s a lot more than just clamping: it’s development.”
Dominance All Summer Long
McCarthy’s dominance was on display all summer, including an All-Star Game Defensive MVP performance at the One Percent Showcase. His unique combination of faceoff wizardry, technique, athleticism and field skills set him apart from everyone else, and it’s what will allow him to make an impact in Durham. Philly Face-Off League owner John Bodnar, who has extensively worked with every 2022 Division I faceoff All-America teamer, has seen some good ones. McCarthy’s at the top of the list of those guys, especially with his long-term potential.
“Ben is probably as college-ready as any player I’ve ever worked with,” Bodnar said. “He is always willing to outwork everyone to get better. He’s got that, “first one in, last one out,” mentality and it’s served him so well. He brings a lot of skill, but also a ton of toughness – physical and mental – to the position. Ben’s so dedicated to his craft and he wants to be the best player – not just the best faceoff guy – on the field at all time. I think that the combination of his natural talent and work ethic make him as good a faceoff prospect as there’s been in recent memory.”
And as for those battles with his older brother?
“They’re about 50-50 now,” McCarthy said. “You’re never able to fully beat your older brother because it just ends in a fight.”