Home > Illinois basketball > McCamey doesn’t have long to change Illini legacy

McCamey doesn’t have long to change Illini legacy

Demetri McCamey took the slow, painful walk to the bench with his shoulders shrugged and palms to the sky after Brandon Paul’s last-second three-point attempt clanked off the rim.

After yet another road loss that spurned a court-rushing from the opposing crowds, Illinois fans may feel compelled to flash similar body language toward their team’s star.

McCamey should not shoulder the entire blame for four Illini losses in five games, including Thursday’s inexcusable 52-49 loss to an inferior, depleted Indiana roster. The head coach takes that responsibility.

“I’ve got to do it,” said Illini coach Bruce Weber, who falls to 30-32 in the Big Ten during McCamey’s four years. “It’s my fault. It’s my program, and I’ve got to get them going.”

Getting the most out of McCamey should be goal No. 1. But that’s already been a three-and-a-half year project.

Since he arrived at Illinois, McCamey has been a tough mind to figure out. While McCamey appeared to make strides during the offseason and looked like an All-America candidate early this season, Weber still struggles to motivate 100-percent effort out of the Bellwood native and recently said he “can’t be nice” to McCamey.

At this point, McCamey should have plenty of personal motivation, including his lasting legacy at Illinois (one NCAA Tournament game) and his future earnings.

Projected as a possible lottery selection in the NBA Draft after a hot start this season, McCamey looks like a borderline first-round draft pick the past few weeks.

Players have bad games. Some have bad weeks and bad months. But stars find a way to lift their team even when their shots aren’t falling.

But McCamey has lost his mojo in the last two weeks, missing 35 of 46 shot attempts over his last four games, including back-to-back 2-for-11 shooting performances against Ohio State and Indiana.

He’s finished with single-digit scoring in back-to-back games for the first time this season and just the second time in the last two years. Michigan’s Darius Morris has passed McCamey as the Big Ten’s assist leader as the Illini shooting struggles persist.

Knowing the Illini offense slows to a 1920s pace when McCamey struggles, opposing defenses have ramped up the pressure on the Illini star once he passes the halfcourt line. And McCamey hasn’t responded to the challenge from defenders like Aaron Craft and Jeremiah Rivers, neither of which appear destined for NBA careers.

But most importantly, McCamey hasn’t been the closer for Illinois, which sorely needs a clutch perfomer judging by its 1-7 record in games decided in the final minute (stat via Lindsey Willhite of the Daily Herald) And not to get Jay Cutler on him but when the Illini sorely need a senior leader running the show, McCamey has appeared rattled and insecure.

During the loss Saturday to Ohio State, Bill Cole was the player in the huddle asking for the ball in the closing minute. Against Indiana, D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul took the shots in the final 10 seconds.

Granted, McCamey came open off a Mike Tisdale screen a split second after Cole inbounded to Paul for the Illini’s last-ditch effort. But most stars would demand the ball and let his teammates know it.

Instead, McCamey’s sorrowful shrug to the Illini bench sums up a once-promising, once-hpyed season gone awry.
“Now is the time to wake up and be men and win ballgames,” Demetri McCamey told IlliniHQ.com after the loss to Indiana.
But 126 games have passed for McCamey at Illinois. Can we really expect an epiphany from him with just 10 regular season games remaining in his Illini career?

Jeremy Werner is the co-host of the “Tay and J Show,” which airs on 93.5, 95.3 ConnectFM and on www.myconnectfm.com. Post your comments below or e-mail Jeremy at jeremy@myconnectfm.com.

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Categories: Illinois basketball
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