McCamey looks to rebound from poor showing in Big Ten tourney

John Supinie

An injury to a starter heading into the NCAA Tournament means everyone else needs to step up. That's more than evident for Illinois sophomore guard Demetri McCamey.

McCamey heads into the NCAAs off one of his worst games of the season. The team's leading scorer this season at 11.5 points per game, McCamey failed to score while losing four turnovers and logging only 4 minutes in the second half against Purdue in the Big Ten semifinals Saturday.

With senior guard Chester Frazier a long shot to play minimal minutes, another dud from McCamey wouldn't be good for fifth-seeded Illinois (24-9) against 12th-seeded Western Kentucky (24-8) in the NCAA first round Thursday.

''I kind of challenged him without being too negative,'' Weber said. ''He's supposed to be one of our top players. He can't have 20 minutes and zero points, four or five turnovers, nothing on the play-hard chart. We're going to go home if that happens. He has to step up. If you want to be a star or considered one of the top players, you have to do it all the time. That's what I told him in practice. It can't be just one game. It's got to be multiple games for us to have success.''

A program riding on the shoulders of the sophomore class, Illinois relies upon McCamey, a third-team all-Big Ten pick by the media. But he's been unreliable, even if McCamey says the right things.

"If you're a basketball player, you have bad days,'' McCamey said. "You can't make it two in a row. You're going to look at (the bad game). It's going to make you even more ready. You know you didn't help your team the last time. No you want to help them win.''

As a freshman point guard a year ago, McCamey quickly learned that he would be the target of the coaching staff in practice. They pushed the former Westchester St. Joseph star. Like most freshmen, he was up and down.

That's continued this year. While fellow sophomores Mike Tisdale and Mike Davis also battle to find a constant level of performance because of a lack of strength, Weber said, McCamey's problem is more a result of desire. McCamey would increase his athleticism if he lost 5 or 10 pounds and get closer to 200 rather than 210.

"He's not an energy guy,'' Weber said. "He needs a little better conditioning, lose a few pounds. He's got to get to the point where he gets it and makes a commitment.''

Against Western Kentucky, McCamey must also be committed to playing defense against guards A.J. Slaughter and Orlando Mendez-Valdez, the Sun Belt Conference player of the year who shot 40 percent from the 3-point line.

"It's not like we can hide him,'' Weber said. "All their guards score and penetrate. He's going to have to be held accountable on both ends of the court.''

John Supinie can be reached