Illinois point guard Demetri McCamey is clearly a frustrating case for any person involved in Illini basketball.
He has his ups. He has his downs. He runs away from the ball in the final seconds. He has seemingly a boatload of talent to go along with a fluctuating attitude.
And when he is down, the Illini do not function.
It seemed as though, after realizing he could be a real NBA prospect this summer, McCamey got himself together. Before playing Ohio State on Jan. 22, McCamey was averaging 16.2 points and 7.2 assists and shooting 52.5 percent from beyond the arc in the first 19 games of the season.
Including the Ohio State game, McCamey has averaged 9.7 points and 4.2 assists and is eight-of-25 from beyond the three-point line in five games since, which led to three Illini losses.
McCamey has 18 turnovers vs. 21 assists during the stretch.
Illini head coach Bruce Weber decided to make the biggest statement a coach can make. He benched McCamey to start a nationally televised game until the first TV timeout Thursday against Minnesota. Weber also benched senior center Mike Tisdale, but not many people seemed to care because he is a soft lost cause, who doesn't understand that refs will call a foul every time on a seven-footer when his arms come down on defense.
McCamey finally answered a Weber challenge, which, for the first time, effected his play time. He scored 17 points on six-of-11 shooting, dished out four assists and forced three steals. McCamey had four steals in his previous nine games, so clearly he decided to show up in the 71-62 win for the Illini.
The benching/not starting of McCamey was the story of the game. Weber basically was out of options regarding McCamey, so he figured why not take away the spotlight for the first four minutes or so of a game.
I understand that.
And I even slightly tip my cap to McCamey for answering the call, even though he still had five turnovers, and the fact a senior needs to be benched to wake up is completely ridiculous. And, this could all be meaningless tomorrow if McCamey doesn't show up against Purdue, which is very feasible.
Writer's note: McCamey scored 4 four points on 1-of-10 shooting versus Purdue. Let the McCamey saga continue.
What confuses me is Weber's reasoning behind McCamey's struggles.
On "The Waddle and Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000, Weber said:
"The outside influences just kill kids, I'm just telling you. I feel bad. He was playing so well, and all of a sudden, the runners, the agents, the third-party people, they're all telling him he's an all-American and this and that.
Then, he stopped coming in to work hard and spend extra time on his shot and all the stuff you need to do. Here, I'm saying give a five-month commitment, put more time in, and they're telling him how great he is. It just screws up kids. It's not just me. If you talk to our the football coaches, you can talk to other coaches in the Big Ten, it's one of the worst things we have to deal with in college basketball is the outside influences, the third parties, the agents, the runners, whatever. It's that honestly."
Weber did also say it was partially McCamey's own fault and added that the team itself seems to get too high and might any time it moves up the rankings.
Once again, I understand where he's coming from.
I'm sure it would be irritating to have some person who works under you getting told from higher ups how great of a worker they are when you want them to stay focused.
The best comparison I can think to make is when a high school basketball player is getting recruited in the middle of a season by colleges and told how great he is when he's only a sophomore or junior.
That must get really annoying for high school basketball coaches....do you see what I'm getting at?
How are agents talking to McCamey during the season any different than college recruiters talking to a high school player during the season?
"He's a kid," Weber said. "If you're a kid, would you rather hear Coach Weber say 'come in and work harder' or 'you're great?'"
And high school players are mature adults, so it's okay?
Weber needs to stop reaching for excuses involving his team's undisciplined and inconsistent play and get them in line.
Otherwise, Weber's wish may come true. He could be coaching a new team that has nothing to offer NBA agents.