Top NBA talent comes to UI



Utah Jazz guard Deron Williams, right, fights for a loose ball against Denver Nuggets forward Renaldo Balkman in a NBA exhibition game in Denver on Wednesday. Williams, a former U of I standout, and his team will compete against the Chicago Bulls on Frida David Zalubowski, The Associated Press

By Jeff LaBelle

Friday night, Assembly Hall is one big classroom for Illinois guard Demetri McCamey. The subject? How to play point guard, as taught by two talented NBA professionals.

The Utah Jazz’s Deron Williams and the Chicago Bulls’ Derrick Rose are coming to Champaign as part of a preseason matchup, and McCamey’s been studying their games.

“That’s going to be a tough matchup,” McCamey said. “They’re two people I know real well. Deron’s the truth. D-Rose, he’s just coming in. I don’t know. It’s going to be a heated battle.”

Williams, playing in his first competitive game back in Champaign since the 2005 NCAA runner-up season, averaged 21.6 points and 3.6 rebounds last year for the Jazz. Rose, the No. 1 overall pick to the Bulls in June, led Memphis to the NCAA Championship game last year and has been touted for, among other things, his quickness and demeanor on and off the court.

The two players are decidedly at different stages of their professional careers – Rose is still learning what it takes to run an NBA team while Williams is already an All-Star. But McCamey said those aren’t the only differences.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

“They’re two different players,” McCamey said. “To me, Deron’s the big-bodied guard that’s going to kill you in a lot of ways. He just don’t care. He’s just going to try to destroy you and make you look bad. D-Rose, he’s kind of laid back, quick in the open court with fancy dunks and crowd pleasers. That’s their two games right there.”

During Illinois media events on Tuesday, Illinois head coach Bruce Weber said he hoped McCamey could develop some of the Williams’ traits. In his time at Illinois, Weber said Williams learned to be one thing above everything else: “dependable,” something McCamey has yet to become.

“(Deron) didn’t always score but he always was there, he guarded, passed the basketball, showed leadership, made the plays at the end of games. I think that’s what’s really important for him,” Weber said. “As with most kids, (McCamey’s) thinking, ‘I’m going to be all Big-Ten, I’m going to be a star,’ that type of thing, and that’s fine. I want him to feel that way. But I’m talking to him about being consistent and dominating practice on a daily basis so you can have that consistency.”

McCamey, expected to start at guard entering his sophomore season, led a five-game tour in China in May before a major earthquake there ended those exhibitions.

Under the direction of Illinois assistant coach Jerrance Howard, McCamey said he learned what it meant to lead.

“The trip to China really set it up for me,” McCamey said. “(Coach Howard) made me the leader out there. At first I wanted to be laid back and just play basketball but he made me talk to the players, go to lunch and everything, and just be the best leader I could.”

Williams, prepping for his return to Champaign, told Utah reporters earlier in the week that he was excited to come back to Illinois and play for “the best fans in the nation.”

“You all wouldn’t want to come in there and play, I guarantee you that,” Williams said. “North Carolina came in there and played, they didn’t like it too much. Wake Forest, when they were No. 1, they came in there, they really didn’t like it too much. It’s a tough place to play there, buddy. Definitely one of the top five toughest places to play in college basketball.”

Jeremy Werner contributed to this report.