Demetri McCamey was an enigma as a freshman last season. He played brilliantly in a few games, but he was a complete nonfactor in many others. Illinois basketball coach Bruce Weber is looking for ways of bringing out Demetri's best on a daily basis.
"He has the potential to be all-conference. He was all-conference last year for about 5 games. The rest of the time, he didn't make the all-freshman team. There's a big drop in that, and he needs to get somewhere in the middle.
"Like most kids, he's thinking, 'I'm gonna be a star, be All-Big Ten' and those types of things. I want him to feel that way, but I want him to be consistent and learn to dominate practice on a daily basis so we can have that consistency. Have the brilliant games but also the solid ones where you can be dependable.
"I think a great word for Demetri is 'dependable.' Do we know what we're gonna get? Deron (Williams) is an excellent example for Demetri. Deron was always dependable. He didn't always score, but he was always there, he guarded, he passed the basketball, he showed leadership, made the plays at the end of games. So that's what I think is important for him."
McCamey understands and agrees with Weber's assessment.
"I've got to remember my good moments from last year and bring it to this year. Like Coach Weber said in every paper, I've got to be more consistent night in and night out. I'm a basketball player, so whatever I have to do to help the team win, I'll do."
The 6'-3", 205 pound product of St. Joseph's High School in Westchester, Illinois, remembers how it felt during his best games last year.
"Just feeling dominant and more confident rather than thinking all the time. Dee (Brown) always tells me to pick my swagger up. Because once you have your swagger, nobody can stop you."
The point guard in basketball plays a similar role to a quarterback in football. A good one makes the whole team better. A good point guard must also be a good leader.
"I most definitely want to be a leader. Everybody wants to be a leader when they grow up. So it's important having everybody look up to me to lead my team. It's not just about scoring 30 a night. It's about encouraging my team, running with them when they're having difficult times, and doing the little things to make the team win."
The unranked Illini team isn't expected to challenge for championships, and this may actually be a plus for them according to McCamey.
"Not having any pressure on us is good. Just going out and playing basketball, doing what we love to do and proving people wrong. We want to get our egos up and play every game like it's our last and play to win."
Demetri believes this Illini team can surprise.
"I think we can be real good. We have way more scorers than last year. And we have athletic bigs who can run, rebound and block shots. No slight to Shaun Pruitt, but he was just a post-up guy. Tizzie (Mike Tisdale), he likes to shoot jump shots, and he can run way better. He can assist and pop more, and he can pick and roll.
"So it's gonna be alot more fluid on offense. It could be a very interesting year, I think."
Yes, it could be an interesting year, especially if Demetri McCamey finds a way to excel night in and night out. Coach Weber wants that for his young point guard.
"Demetri loves to play. He can play all day and all night. So he has that kind of leadership. At times, we try to get him to do some of the other things besides just playing."