Last weekend the Illini's latest verbal, Demetri McCamey, took his official visit to the University of Illinois and spent some time with Coach Bruce Weber. McCamey will be a fan favorite once he arrives on the campus, that I'm sure of. Due to the fact that McCamey was on his official visit, he wasn't available to the media.
The star recruit on campus was Darius Miller, a 6-7 small forward from Maysville, KY. Miller is a four-star athlete listed here at Scout.com in the class of 2008 as the third best SF in his class. "I like the campus and the players here. My family and I had a good time this weekend. As of right now I'm not going to put a list of schools together because it's still early for me, but I really liked it here," said Miller. According to sources, Miller is probably the best player in the State of Kentucky.
After the players were done scrimmaging I took a visit to the Ubben Basketball Complex where the former Illini stayed around to work on their game and play at little one-on-one. The most intense game was between current Illini guard Jamar Smith and now Houston Rocket sharp-shooter Luther Head. All reports on Smith indicate that, if allowed, he would just move his bed to the Ubben Complex. The game of basketball is that important to him. Last year coming in Smith was like most freshmen great athletes – without a lot of strength. Smith has added a lot of much needed muscle to his frame. Not only was his stroke on, but his ability to get to the rim was even more impressive. When their game of one-on-one was done, Head asked my son if he played and wanted him out there with them to "show" him the ropes. When they were done Head said to the young man, "If you can play college basketball - play here. It's a great place to play." It's so easy for someone with the success these young men have had to have egos, but that is not the case with any of them. Actually, Dee was a national favorite to interview but my all-time favorite was Head. It didn't matter how many times he was asked the same question during his career there nor how many times he was asked to pose for a picture, not once have I seen him turn his back.
It's been stated by most reporters that it's too bad Illini commit Eric Gordon couldn't have been on campus this past weekend. Why? I've been in this business for over eight years now and talked with a lot of players, coaches and family members. Dee Brown, Luther Head and Deron Williams are as professional as they come. It didn't matter who was in the gym, if they walked by you they stopped, shook your hand, or gave hugs to people they didn't even know. Even though they spent most of their time playing basketball and talking with recruits, you could see their love for Illinois still.
"I just love to be here. The fans here are great and I would like to do what I can for Illinois. This is a great place to play basketball and I love being here," said Brown. This is a close knit group and like Dee has said before, "It's like a family down here." The love doesn't stop there. Denise Smith, the mother of Deron Williams who now lives in Indiana, has taken a little interest in the Gordon saga. "Well, I live in Indiana so it's a little easy for me to follow high school basketball up there, and I think they know my feelings toward Illinois. I saw him play once and he is very good. Most people that know him said he's going to be in college only for a year because he's that good. So my feeling is this: do you want to go to a school because you grew up in the state of Indiana or do you want to play for someone who's going to get the most for you that one year? We liked our time there and Coach Weber is a good coach," said Denise.
From Deron Williams' standpoint, he feels this way, "We don't pressure players. We tell them that it's great to play for Coach Weber and we had a great career there, and we tell them about the University and what it's all about and how it's helped us to be where we are right now. But just like when we visited, we weren't pressured because it's all up to the players." Williams now plays with the Utah Jazz.
This was a special group of players. Now Weber is trying to keep that family atmosphere going. Sometimes players can have all the stats and talent in the world but not all of them fit what you're looking for. Weber is known for getting the most from his players and accepting ones that want to play for the University of Illinois. In the end is that all bad?