Demetri McCamey Sees LeBron Up Close

LeBron James has dominated sports headlines for the last couple weeks. Everyone was waiting with baited breath for him to announce his future pro team. Fighting Illini guard Demetri McCamey interacted frequently with LeBron during this time period at his camp. He brought back lessons and memories that will aid his basketball future.

Demetri McCamey was a counselor at the LeBron James Skills Camp early this past week. He praises the NBA superstar.

"He's just a real good guy. He was always around the facility, practicing and playing hard. He gave us tips and talked to us about his NBA experience, the good and the bad out of it. He was telling us it's a business, so once we get there make sure we're settled and have the right people around you."

Unlike some who donate their name only, James was heavily involved in the camp daily.

"We saw him every day. It was one of the best camps I've ever been to. He was hands-on, working with the players. That shows how tremendous a person he is."

McCamey enjoyed the opportunity to play against James, albeit in a losing cause.

"Yeah. The first game we were within 6 or 7. After that, it wasn't even close. Playing him is like playing NBA 2K. It's just like a video game.

"One time he took off two feet after the free throw line. He can jump so high he was gonna hit his head on the rim. But he came back and reversed it with the same hand. It was crazy. Everybody stopped and looked while he was just running down laughing.

"He's just a competitor. Even when he's playing high school and college kids, he is out there willing himself to win. He wasn't going to lose."

McCamey was able to compete against some new faces.

"It's good to get away from a couple teammates you play every day. You get a break from that and school. It's tremendous. It's the best of the best. It's competition on another level. It helps you get better while you're working in the summer."

Did he learn things he can apply to his final season at Illinois?

"A couple offensive moves. But the main thing is the willingness to win and determination to get better. The best come in and work out extremely hard.

"Even though they say LeBron is the best and not even human, he's been putting in hard hours every day. It shows you how hard you have to work to get on that level."

James didn't give away his ultimate destination. That was saved for his big ESPN show Thursday night. Of course, no one really felt like asking him about it.

"He was just playing basketball and teaching. Like he said, he didn't make a decision until that morning. So he didn't say what he was gonna do. We weren't gonna go up to him and be disrespectful."

McCamey respects James's decision to join the Miami Heat along with fellow superstars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

"He made the best decision to try to win a championship. He gave Cleveland good years. Unfortunately, they don't have the right pieces to try to win a championship.

"Now Miami has three superstars. Now they've got to get some good roll players in. They're gonna be scary. The Lakers and Miami Heat are gonna be the top two teams probably for a couple years now."

Returning to thoughts of the 2010-11 Fighting Illini basketball team, McCamey sees more talent available to help him out. That provides him a different role on the team.

"It's more like football now. Like a quarterback, I don't have to go out and score and make everything happen for my teammates. I can pass, cut and be comfortable with them making plays, getting assists themselves.

"People talk about me averaging 10 assists, but my assists might go down because everybody on the team is unselfish and looking for the best play."

He is also maturing into his leadership role.

"Most definitely. Just talking to the guys when I was in camps. I was texting D.J. (Richardson) and Jereme (Richmond) and the kids, making sure everybody's working hard. It's my last go-round, and I want to go out as a winner."

With that in mind, McCamey is dedicated to being in top shape for the beginning of the season.

"Jereme probably was surprised when I came back. He was probably thinking over Fourth of July I might get big, that at camp we might just eat and relax all day. But I came back and weighed in at 198, so he's real impressed with that.

"I need to lose 3-4 more pounds to be comfortable and where I want to be for my end of summer goal. I'm trying to get to the D.J. Richardson stage, skinny."

Skinny he will never be. But he says staying under 200 is possible with proper diet and motivation.

"It's not hard. You've just got to watch yourself. You can't just go to any place on campus to eat. You have to be highly disciplined. I've been doing a better job with it."

Richmond is the most highly publicized freshman addition to the team. McCamey is impressed with what he has seen so far.

"I played with him one time before he went to USA. You can just tell he's on another level maturity-wise, not coming in as an All-American and being selfish but making other people better. That's gonna help us out. He has a gift to make players better."


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