High school teammates to meet again as Illini take on Buckeyes

John Supinie

Evan Turner found himself the recruiting target of Illinois and several other Big Ten Conference schools as a Westchester St. Joseph High School junior forward in 2006. In the summer before his senior season, Turner committed to Ohio State.

Shortly after Turner's decision, high school teammate Demetri McCamey jumped at an offer from Illinois. ranked Turner No. 49 in the class of 2007. The website also had McCamey at No. 72.

Filling different roles and positions that bring contrasting demands, McCamey and Turner meet again as freshman starters when the Illini play at Ohio State tonight in a Big Ten game at Value City Arena, one of five on the road in a seven-game stretch for Illinois.

McCamey suffered through the worst of his rookie season against Purdue on Saturday, the same day Turner enjoyed a breakout game against Tennessee.

McCamey had five points, two assists and five turnovers in the 74-67 loss at Purdue. Four of the turnovers came in the second-half meltdown, when the Illini lost a nine-point lead. But the starting lineup will remain unchanged with McCamey, who is being groomed as the lead point guard, ahead of junior Chester Frazier.

"Demetri has been very good for us, but he has also played like a freshman,'' said Illini coach Bruce Weber. "Good against Indiana and Wisconsin, struggled against Purdue. The first half, he was fine. They picked up the pressure in the second half and pushed us out. He got casual with some passes. It got worse and worse as the game went on. He didn't deal with it very well.

"McCamey has natural gifts. He wasn't ready like a lot of kids for the intensity. Point guard is the toughest spot to make the transition from high school to college. The point guard is always accountable. When you fail, everybody knows it whether they're watching on TV or they're at the game.''

McCamey didn't play in the game's final 9 minutes. Meanwhile, Turner posted a career-high 21 points and 10 rebounds in the 74-69 loss at then-No. 6 Tennessee.

"Evan is playing very good basketball,'' said Ohio State coach Thad Matta. "He gets a little more comfortable every day, and he's done what we need him to do for us. I've been very pleased with his progress. As all freshmen coming in, there's a learning curve.

"We've put a major emphasis for him really to focus on taking care of the basketball, trying not to create something maybe when it's not there, reading situations better. That's been the big thing, being aggressive but slowing things down.''

Ohio State defeated Illinois 74-58 in the conference opener on Jan. 3, when McCamey hadn't yet worked his way into the starting lineup. McCamey had 10 points and two assists while Turner suffered through an off-game with five points and five turnovers.

In that first meeting, Ohio State senior guard Jamar Butler scored a career-high 32 points. He scored all of Ohio State's points in a 15-2 run that put the game away in the second half.

Illinois began the conference season with home losses to Ohio State and Penn State. Playing five of seven on the road -- with the five road games against perhaps the leagues' top five teams -- gave Weber early concern about the schedule months ago.

"You complain about it, then somebody says you're a whiner,'' he said. "If you've coached or played, you understand how you need home games, little runs to feel good about yourself. Our whole problem with the season is right after Christmas. We had home games and didn't take advantage of it.

"It puts us in a major bind. If you win those first two games, I wouldn't say you're competing for the championship but you're still competing for the upper half of the conference standings. We've played all the top teams on the road early. It's a computer thing. At the same time, it doesn't make it easier on us.''

Of course, Illinois also lost non-conference home games to Tennessee State and Miami (Ohio). Illinois faces the challenge of regrouping following the loss at Purdue.

"It hurts,'' said Illini forward Brian Randle after the loss at Purdue. "It's frustrating. At the same time, I want to look at it as Miami (of Ohio) to Missouri, the way we turned things around. When we go to Ohio State, they're a great team with a tough place to play.

"You have to get past this. Games come to quickly right now. We're in the guts of the season. There's no turning back, and it's a quick turnaround. We can sulk maybe (Saturday), then we have to get down to business.''

John Supinie can be reached at For more coverage, read Illini Talk blog at and

Illinois (9-10, 1-5) vs. Ohio State (12-6, 3-2)

8 p.m., Value City Arena, Columbus, Ohio (Big Ten Network, Illini Sports Network)

ILLINOIS (9-10, 1-5)   ppg     rpg

F Brian Randle Sr. 6-8 10.5 5.7

C Shaun Pruitt Sr. 6-10 12.9 7.9

G Demetri McCamey Fr. 6-3 6.3 2.3

G Calvin Brock Jr. 6-5 8.2 3.8

G Trent Meacham Jr. 6-2 10.2 2.5

OHIO STATE (12-6, 3-2)     ppg   rpg

F Othello Hunter Sr. 6-8 9.7 6.4

C Kosta Koufos Fr. 7-0 13.7 6.8

G Jamar Butler Sr. 6-1 14.7. 3.8

G David Lighty So. 6-5 9.4 4.2

G Evan Turner Fr. 6-6 7.8 3.4

Noteworthy: Following five straight wins by Illinois in the series, Ohio State has a four-game winning streak against the Illini. … The Illini are getting production from their seniors. Pruitt and Randle combined for averages of 30.3 points and 18.3 rebounds over the last three games. … Seven of Illinois' next eight games will be broadcast by the Big Ten Network. … Ohio State lost its last three games to Purdue, Michigan State and Tennessee. All three were on the road.

Key for Illini: Somebody guard Butler. In the first meeting this year, Butler scored 32 points. In the second half, he had all of OSU's points in a 15-2 run.

Key for Buckeyes: Pressure the ball. McCamey struggled at Purdue, where defensive pressure tested Illinois' ballhandling.

Key quote: "One of the keys when you're going against great teams on the road, you're trying to gauge if we're getting better. In certain stretches of all the games, we played some very good basketball.'' -- Ohio State coach Thad Matta.

Prediction: Ohio State 74, Illinois 66