McCamey wipes off inconsistent image

Mr. Casual is slowly becoming Mr. Consistent for the Illini.

After being benched earlier this season for being too casual on the court and not showing enough leadership, Demetri McCamey has finally found his rhythm. And most importantly, he has kept the beat going.

The junior guard has put the men’s basketball team on his shoulders the last few weeks, leading Illinois to five straight victories, including wins against then-No. 5 Michigan State on Saturday and No. 11 Wisconsin on Tuesday.

McCamey, who led the squad in scoring in four of five of those victories, is now averaging 17.3 points in Big Ten play and leads the conference with 7.42 assists per game.

“He’s finally getting it,” head coach Bruce Weber said. “Maybe sitting him down — and that we won games when sitting him down — made him realize, ‘Hey, I just can’t go through the motions. Coach isn’t going to mess with me.’

“He’s older, and he’s listening better,” Weber added. “He’s even making suggestions, which is amazing. Before I was lucky if he was listening to me. Now, he’s telling me some things. He’s made big strides.”

McCamey said that rather than force the action on the court, he has decided to let the game come to him in the last several contests to prove he is no longer an up-and-down player.

“It’s just maturity,” McCamey said of the difference in his play. “Once you grow in the game, it gets slower and everything isn’t as fast. You can pick your poison and get a great feel for the game of basketball. (I’m) trying to be a coach of the game and a player of the game at the same time.”

Although McCamey had trouble finding the basket in the first 10 minutes against the Badgers, his ability to read the court still took over.

“Even when we were able to stop him, he was able to hit Tisdale, and Tisdale made big shots,” Wisconsin guard Trevon Hughes said.

Weber agreed with Hughes that McCamey is all eyes on the court.

“The best thing about Demetri was that early he kicked it back to Tisdale, and then Tisdale, he drove in,” Weber said. “He wouldn’t have done that last year or two years ago … Steve Nash is always making those plays, Deron Williams is starting to make those plays and Demetri is starting to see some of those things.”

Weber said that when McCamey has led the team to a victory in the past, he would be complimented and then regress the next game.

That may not be the case any longer, though.

“He’s really playing like we wanted him to — to see things, read things, lead us, talk,” Weber said. “If he could guard, that would really help us. But right now, we’re happy with what he’s giving us.”

But Weber believes McCamey is still a ways away from reaching his full potential.

“I can find things to yell about, I can promise you,” Weber said.