McCamey shows off as minutes increase

By Jeremy Werner

It was big for the Fighting Illini to get their first Big Ten win of the season with a 75-57 victory over the Michigan Wolverines, but it was not a nice win – it was a must-win. With Purdue, Ohio State and Michigan State coming up in four of the next five games, the Illini needed a win to gain some sort of confidence.

What the team and Illinois fans should be most excited about, in what has been a rather dismal season, is the recent play of freshman guard Demetri McCamey.

McCamey started for the third straight game Wednesday night and again was one of the bright spots for the Orange and Blue, filling the box score with seven points on 3-of-6 shooting, six assists and four rebounds.

McCamey has seen his minutes significantly increase due to Chester Frazier’s struggles to perform on the court and stay healthy enough to be on the court. The former St. Joseph’s star has filled in nicely, giving Illinois the playmaker at point guard it has lacked for most of this season.

His style of play is similar to his role model and former Illinois star Deron Williams.

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    The big-bodied point guard is one of the Illini’s best pure passers and dribblers, leading Illinois in Big Ten play with 22 assists through five games. More impressive is that McCamey has improved on limiting turnovers. He had no turnovers against Ohio State and Indiana in a combined 64 minutes of play. His assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.75 during Big Ten play is superb for a freshman.

    Although his field-goal percentage for the season is less than spectacular (35 percent), McCamey’s three-point percentage has dramatically increased from 21.1 percent in nonconference games to 44.4 percent on 18 attempts during the young Big Ten season.

    McCamey ranks third on the team with 10 points per game in Big Ten play. He has shown flashes of an explosive offensive repertoire, highlighted by an 18-point performance versus Penn State on 7-of-12 shooting and 4-of-6 from beyond the arc.

    Senior forward Brian Randle said McCamey struggled to transition into the rigors of the college game but has acclimated better after competing with Chester Frazer every day.

    “He’s doing great for us right now,” Randle said. “Coming in as a talented freshman and going up against Chester was hard enough, but he never backed down. He’s been a great point guard, and he’s going to continue to get better. I think he’s really accepted his role.”

    Head coach Bruce Weber said McCamey’s recent play is what they expected to see from the freshman sooner or later.

    “When we recruited we felt he had great court vision and a great feel for the game,” Weber said. “The next step is cutting a little harder, and he gets tired and wants to come out of the game sometimes, and we can’t have that against good Big Ten teams.

    “It’s a nice positive step for us and kind of what we expected out of him.”

    McCamey has the potential to turn into a star in the Big Ten with more experience. It will be interesting to watch his growth throughout the rest of the season and into next year, as Deron Williams grew leaps and bounds as a scorer and playmaker from his freshman to sophomore season.

    With the return of Jamar Smith and entry of highly-touted Kentucky transfer Alex Legion next season, the Illini could, and I repeat could, have some impressive firepower from the perimeter in the near future.

    Although this season has been frustrating for the team, coaches and fans, McCamey gives fans a glimmer of hope not only for the rest of the season but for the next couple of years.

    Jeremy Werner is a junior in Communications. He can be reached at [email protected].