Demetri McCamey’s journey to the Hall

If there is one player who embodies head coach Bruce Weber’s motto of “rising up” for this season’s Illini, it just might be Demetri McCamey. The junior guard started the season looking like a new man after dropping what Weber estimated to be 10 to 12 pounds from the previous season. And the changes didn’t end there, with McCamey also garnering praise from the staff at Irwin Academic Services Center, the same staff that formerly had to chase McCamey down when it came to school work.

McCamey’s transformation is becoming more obvious on the court, too. The guard not only leads the team in scoring, he’s also distributing the ball. In the loss at Purdue on Saturday, McCamey posted 16 assists, tying him for the fourth most in Big Ten history. For Weber, it demonstrates McCamey’s progress in reading the game. As far as McCamey is concerned, it’s all about what it takes to help the Fighting Illini win.

Can you talk a little bit about what the recruiting process was like for you?

“It was real good. All the coaches, they scouted basically all my games. Especially in the summer time in the big AAU events, you’d see Coach Weber, Coach McClain over there eating popcorn and watching me play and doing things like that. So it was just tremendous, and it just showed that it was a family program that came out and supported the players they wanted.”

Who was the first coach to contact you?

“I talked to coach (Tracy) Webster that’s right now the (interim) head coach at DePaul. So unfortunately he left, but that was the first person to contact me and the person that recruited me and I was the closest with.”

What were the other schools recruiting you?

“I made a list of the top five with Illinois, Boston College, Wake Forest and two more— I believe it was Michigan State— and one more other school that I don’t remember because after the middle of June, I decided to come to Illinois my junior year.”

Did you make campus visits to any other schools?

“I was at Wake Forest, I visited a couple more schools like North Carolina and things like that. It’s just, during the AAU (season) it’s hard to get out to schools. Whatever schools we were playing at were close around, me and my AAU coach went there after the tournament and made a visit.”

What events did you attend at Illinois during the recruiting process?

“I came down here to see Midnight Madness and things like that, so it was just the stuff that they had here not during the summer.”

What made Illinois stand out to you?

“Just being close to home. And just seeing the success they had and going to the Final Four, the Championship (in 2005). And it’s right here. And I decided if I wanted to win a national championship or any kind of ring, it should be for my home state.”

Was your family excited that you decided to stay in Illinois?

“Most definitely because they kind of just let me make my own decision. They were going to just back it up, so they were just happy to hear that I wanted to stay close to home.”

Going to St. Joseph High School with Ohio State’s Evan Turner, how much did you guys talk about the recruiting process and where you would play?

“We probably changed schools every other week on who we liked. We would probably watch a game (and say), ‘Oh, I want to go to Wake Forest,’ if they won and things like that. We were little kids, and that’s what most kids do, change schools like every week. But when we finally got serious and decided, it was more on family situations and what was the best fit for each other.”

Are you still happy you decided on Illinois?

“Most definitely. Illinois has been tremendous to me, and I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to play here. And it’s just not playing here, but just getting a degree from this school to back up your résumé and build yourself as a person and relying on a job and things like that. If basketball doesn’t work out it’s going to be real tremendous because the University of Illinois is one of the top colleges around the country.”

How much did that play into your decision to come here?

“Real big because I knew if basketball didn’t work, you’ve always got to have a Plan B and even a Plan C. And I know if you have a diploma from here, it’ll be a lot easier if you didn’t get a diploma or (if it was) from somewhere that wasn’t a top university as far as school work.”

What should people know about the recruiting process?

“It’s pretty simple, but a lot of people make it harder because a lot of schools are coming at you and things like that. So it’s pretty simple, it all depends on your family situations and what kind of education you’re looking for and what’s your best fit as far as being part of basketball.”

Then you didn’t lose too much sleep over the recruiting process?

“No, I slept good every night, even after I committed. I wasn’t second guessing anything.”