QUINCY -- Evan McGaughey's growing knowledge of European culture and landmarks has him anxious to take hour-long train rides to Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, whenever his schedule allows it.
"They say it's one of the most beautiful cities in Europe," McGaughey said. "I think there will be plenty to do there."
There will be plenty to do when he's not able to visit Prague, too.
McGaughey, the former Quincy University basketball standout and Illini West High School graduate, is headed back to Europe for his sophomore season as a professional basketball player. He's shifting leagues and levels, having signed a one-year contract with BK JIP Pardubice, a professional franchise in the Czech Republic's top league.
"It was fun playing in Germany last year, but I wouldn't mind seeing everywhere in Europe that I possibly can," the 6-foot-8 McGaughey said. "Seeing different countries each year is OK with me. This will be a great opportunity for me this year. It's a step up from last year."
He will be living in Pardubice, which has a population of roughly 90,000 and lies on the river Elbe, and playing with a seasoned team. Two former NCAA Division I players -- Oregon's Dwayne Benjamin and San Diego State's Richard Williams -- are on the Pardubice roster for the 2018-19 season and the team is coached by Levell Sanders, who played at Seton Hall.
"It gets more eyes on you," McGaughey said of the move from MLP Academics Heidelberg in Heidelberg, Germany, to the Czech league. "I'll get to play more than one game a week. That got a little long and drug out just playing one game per week last year. This will be a better fit all the way around."
That's what McGaughey and his agent, Charles Misuraca, had in mind when evaluating contract offers.
"My agent would ask for my preference a lot," McGaughey said. "I have 100 percent trust in him. He's been in the game for 10 years now. He knows it a lot better than I do. He would listen to what I had to say, but this is a perfect spot for me."
Heidelberg was the perfect spot for a rookie a year ago.
"Everything, the whole nine yards, was really great," McGaughey said. "The city was awesome. My teammates were great. Coaches, management, all the people in the community, it was all great."
The drawback was limited access to the team facility because it was shared with other sports.
"It was tough at times with the gym availability to really work on your game, but you have to make the most of it," McGaughey said. "I felt like I got better. I talked to some of the older guys on the team, and they helped me out as much as they could. I felt like I had some good mentors over there."
He held his own, too.
McGaughey averaged 11.8 points and 6.4 rebounds in 34 games and earned third-team all-league honors. He had five double-doubles with season highs of 24 points against Karisruhe PS and 14 rebounds against both Phoenix Hagen and Koehl Rhein Stars.
"People ask if the game is different over there. Not too much honestly," McGaughey said. "It's all physicality. It's different playing against grown men and not college kids all day. There's a couple of rule changes you have to get used to, but it's still basketball.
"All the dimensions are the same. The rim's still round. The ball's still round. You've got to dribble it and put it in the hoop."
That's never been a problem. McGaughey averaged 16.8 points and eight rebounds per game as a senior at QU, helping the Hawks win the Great Lakes Valley Conference West Division championship and reach the second round of the NCAA Tournament. He finished his career seventh in scoring (1,574 points) and seventh in rebounding (831 rebounds).
The hurdle when turning pro was leaving home.
McGaughey grew up in Carthage, Ill., and then played at QU, meaning he was never further than a whisper from his family. It led to some uncertainty when he headed to Germany last August.
"I really didn't know what to expect when I got on the plane last year to go over there," McGaughey said. "Having a year under my belt will help out a lot, just knowing a lot of little things to do to make life easier on you."
So when he leaves Aug. 1 for the Czech Republic, knowing he might not be back until June if Pardubice succeeds in the Champions League, he's better prepared for it.
"I'm a lot more comfortable," McGaughey said. "It won't be easy to say goodbye to family and friends. That was definitely the hardest part last year."
It didn't deter him from his goal. It won't this time either.
"Just keep improving," McGaughey said. "Just keep going up and trying to make the next step on the ladder of where I can go somewhere different next year. I'm just trying to get better and go up and get to the highest level I can."