McCamey struggles in Illinois’ final exhibition

Demetri McCamey was the go-to man for the Illinois basketball team a season ago. At Southern Indiana University, the Screaming Eagles looked to point guard Kevin Gant.

McCamey played his high school career at St. Joseph in Westchester, Ill., with Evan Turner, the former Ohio State guard and No. 2 pick in the 2010 NBA draft. Gant was a high school teammate of current Los Angeles Clippers and former Indiana guard Eric Gordon at North Central High School in Indianapolis.

But that’s where the similarities end.

Gant’s accomplishments may fly mostly under the radar in Division II, while McCamey is receiving national attention after being named to the preseason All-Big Ten team and John R. Wooden Award Preseason Top 50 list.

Despite the differences, it was Gant who drew attention at the Assembly Hall Tuesday, as McCamey posted just three points and three rebounds while being guarded by Gant.

Screaming Eagles head coach Rodney Watson said people give him strange looks when he says Gant is one of the best point guards in the nation.

“He brings that every day in practice. He did it every game last year,” Watson said of his point guard’s performance Tuesday.

“I think Kevin Gant is truly one of the best point guards in the United States, and it was obvious (Tuesday). That guy moves his feet defensively. He’s like a video tape. I can’t say enough about how talented he is and how tough he is.”

Illinois head coach Bruce Weber said the 5-foot-8 Gant and the rest of the shorter Southern Indiana guards were a problem for McCamey and the Illini on the night.

“Demetri didn’t play great by any means, but at least I thought the second half he tried to do some things,” Weber said. “First half, he just ran down the court, and I think he got so frustrated. Second half, he took the ball, trying to do some plays, maybe trying too hard. I think we’re trying too hard.”

McCamey was 0-for-6 from field goal range and missed his only three-point attempt. The senior’s three points on the night came off the free throw, after averaging 15.1 points last season.

Senior center Mike Tisdale didn’t appear overly concerned about his point guard’s performance, though.

“He just had an off night, I guess,” Tisdale said. “I think he’s going to jump back, he’ll be fine. There’s no reason to panic, think he’s not going to play. Obviously, everybody has an off night.”

Heading into the locker room after the 76-67 Illini win, Weber asked his assistant coaches, “What are we?”

Weber accepted part of the responsibility for the team’s lackluster performance, adding that with the regular season starting Monday, his team is “still a long ways off.”

“Last year, we put the ball in Demetri’s hands or you had a lot of ball screens, used those shooters,” Weber said. “I was hoping to be a little more versatile this year, but until we get guys that can take care of the basketball and understand how to play, we’re going to have to do some of that, otherwise we’re going to have some trouble.”