When it comes to Illini junior point guard Demetri McCamey, perhaps his coach, Bruce Weber, can describe him best.
"If you study him over the course of time, he has very good games and a tendency not to be real consistent, this goes back way to high school and AAU and that's where he's got to mature. He has the big one and then average, average. He needs to be more consistent if we're going to be a very good team because he can do things that other people can't do."
Last season, McCamey was the Illini's leading scorer and became the man the team went to when a last-second, game-winning shot was needed. As evidenced by his buzzer beater at Northwestern, he started to become a clutch player.
In addition to his scoring, McCamey was fifth in the Big Ten in assists, averaging 5.0 apg. In Big Ten games only, McCamey led the Big Ten in assists (6.0 apg) and assist/turnover ratio (4.0). Of course, his game still needs polish, which I discussed with both him and Weber extensively during the season.
His shot selection is sometimes suspect: "When my little brother says it, then I know everybody notices, my little brother told me I was settling for too many threes, so I got to get back to attacking the paint like I used to," McCamey said.
His work ethic needs improvement and his defense can often be non-existent. However, he's also the Illini player with the most athleticism and star potential. On a team that will be ranked in everyone's top 25 next season, that's quite a compliment.
"He's got to learn the game: how to use screens, how to play without the ball, and if he could do that he could be the guy," Weber said. He passes well, shoots the three, he's got a big body and can pull-up."
McCamey is often criticized, by Weber and Big Ten announcers alike, for his work ethic, but McCamey says he's dedicated to edifying and bettering himself...
"A student of the game, that's the only way you'll get better," he said. "It's all about making the right decision and every possession is worth something. Coach McClain and I watch film, I like to come in and watch film. If I'm at home, my roommate Alex [Legion] and I - that's all we do is watch college and NBA basketball."
And for excelling in the role of true point guard/go-to guy... "It's not just scoring for me, especially on the defensive end and becoming a leader, being more vocal - don't yell at guys, pick your spots and be a true leader," McCamey said.
McCamey is often candid about how he has to improve his defense, but I asked him what else he needs to improve.
"Standing up a lot and watching instead of attacking, sometimes I rely on my teammates too much when I can just push the ball and make plays happen instead of just trying to wait for them to happen," he responded. "It's being aggressive all the time and take every play like it's you're last and make the right decision."
Current Bull and NBA Rookie of the Year Derrick Rose is a friend of McCamey's and someone that he's talked about modeling his game on.
"He's a wonderful player," McCamey said. "I played against him all the way since seventh grade, he knows me, I know him and I know I'll be in the same boat and playing with passion if I just listen to everybody, because they're only trying to help... No matter how young you are, you can be a real good player. We used to be enemies on the court, now I'm a fan, maybe one day I'll get to where he's at."
If McCamey matures into a consistent player, the Illini could make a deep tournament run in March and Derrick Rose could possibly see another Windy City friend in the NBA in 2010 or 2011.