Illini Need Good McCamey In Portland

If Illinois is to progress deep into the NCAA Tournament, it will need point guard Demetri McCamey providing a peak performance. With Chester Frazier still doubtful with a broken hand, more responsibility falls on McCamey's shoulders. The question is, which McCamey will show up, the good one or the other one?

Illinois guard Demetri McCamey always seems to be on an emotional roller coaster. Last year, he would have a great game sandwiched between games where he was a nonfactor or played inconsistently.

He's been steadier this year, but he still has episodes where he gets down on himself and loses focus. Becoming more consistent and placing more emphasis on conditioning are his two biggest needs between now and next year.

"Somebody told me they thought Penn State might have been his (McCamey's) best game," coach Bruce Weber stated. "As a coach you can always find little things that he can do better. He's got to guard better, there's no doubt."

Weber has seen growth in Demetri from his freshman to sophomore years. But more is needed.

"Last week I was at a game, and one of his high school coaches says the biggest thing that has happened to Demetri is he understands now what he doesn't do well. I think in high school and coming up his first year, he didn't always understand when he didn't play as well. Now he understands, so can he correct it? That's the next step."

The game at Penn State may have been McCamey's best all-around game, but the Purdue bout in the Big 10 Tournament was likely his worst. And that was just two games later. Weber was not pleased.

"I challenged him without being too negative. He's supposedly one of our top players. He's All-Conference. He can't have 20 minutes and zero points, four turnovers, nothing on the Play Hard Chart. We're gonna go home if that happens.

"If you want to be a star or considered one of the top players, you have to do it all the time. That's what I told him in practice. He's got to step it up, and it can't just be one game, it has to be multiple games if we're gonna have success."

Demetri's personality is reminiscent of former basketball star Charles Barkley. Charles can go from feeling sorry for himself to thinking he's the greatest in the blink of an eye. If Demetri suffers failure, he can fall into a state of near depression. But one or two good things happen, and he's convinced he should take the game-winning shot.

"There's some games he's got bounce and energy, and then there's other games when it's painful to watch him play," Weber reminds. "And then the next game, he's one of the top players on the court and doing things you never would anticipate."

Part of the problem according to Weber is a lack of conditioning and focus on maximizing his body's potential.

"He's not an energy guy. If you talk to our trainer and weight coach, they feel he probably needs to take better care of his body. He doesn't always eat the right things. He could use more conditioning and lose a few pounds, better sleep habits, all the normal stuff.

"He has to get to the point where he makes that commitment and does the right things. It's probably not gonna happen overnight. He needs an off-season where we can talk about the things I just talked about. But right now, he needs to focus for a couple more weeks, where we get some consistency out of him."

Weber often finds himself on McCamey's emotional ride, suffering the same ups and downs along the way. So one minute, Bruce is complaining about Demetri's inconsistencies, and the next minute he's bragging about his improvement and potential.

"He's one of the tops in the league in assists/turnovers. He has great vision, and he's gotten better at that. But we have to have him create and score for us too. He's been a combo guard, but he's become a little more of a point over the last two years. I think he's had a good year. I wouldn't say a great year. He's made improvement, but he's still got some room to keep getting better."

The good McCamey is needed for Illinois to defeat Western Kentucky Thursday in Portland. Weber has challenged Demetri to bring his best game, and it is up to him to deliver.

"He's a key, he's one guy that can make plays for us, especially down the stretch. And the other part is he's got to guard. It's not like we can hide him. All their (WKU) guards score, all their guards penetrate. He's gonna be held accountable on both ends of the court if we're gonna have success."

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