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11 ILLINOIS Fighting Illini

Sage advice from an NBA star may help the floor general get the point

IN THE four years that Demetri McCamey has been in Champaign, his primary measuring stick has been Illinois alum Deron Williams. Like Williams, now an All-Star for the Jazz, McCamey is a 6'3" point guard with the talent to go pro. (He declared for the draft last April to get a sense of his stock, then withdrew.) But to the consternation of coach Bruce Weber, McCamey often suffered spells of poor decision-making (he had 3.4 turnovers per game last year) for a team that last season missed the NCAA tournament for the second time in three years.

So to improve his game, McCamey worked as a counselor at Williams's basketball camp in Dallas over the summer. When McCamey wasn't imparting tips to high schoolers, he was mining Williams for pointers to tweak his own game. "We'd just talk about when to call your own number as far as taking over," recalls McCamey. What was Williams's best advice? To slow down. "That will help me cut down my turnovers and encourage me to find my open teammates," McCamey says.

This season he will have plenty of capable targets to choose from on a squad that blends youth and experience. One player who has benefited from additional seasoning is 7'1" senior center Mike Tisdale, who played on the USA Basketball Select Team that scrimmaged against the Kevin Durant--led senior squad and held his own against established NBA stars. With Tisdale drawing increased attention in the paint, opportunities should open up for D.J. Richardson, who shot a team-high 39.0% from three-point range and was the conference's Freshman of the Year.

Those players can only help McCamey become the point guard Weber knows he can be. "He should lead the country in assists this year because we have a lot of good shooters and a lot of depth," says Weber. "Deron sees guys that no one else sees, but Demetri is starting to get that feel."

PROJECTED STARTING FIVE

Coach Bruce Weber (8th season)

2009--10 record 21--15

Big Ten 10--8 (5th)

NCAA tournament Not selected

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Returning starter All six players started at least 14 games last season

SCHEDULE

Nov. 8 UC Irvine

Nov. 10 Toledo

Nov. 13 Southern Illinois

Nov. 18 Texas*

Nov. 19 Maryland or Pitt*

Nov. 23 Yale

Nov. 27 at Western Michigan

Nov. 30 North Carolina

Dec. 4 at Gonzaga

Dec. 8 Oakland

Dec. 12 Northern Colorado

Dec 18 Illinois-Chicago

Dec. 22 Missouri†

Dec 29 at Iowa

Jan. 2 Wisconsin

Jan. 6 Northwestern

Jan. 11 at Penn State

Jan. 15 at Wisconsin

Jan. 18 Michigan State

Jan. 22 Ohio State

Jan. 27 at Indiana

Feb. 1 Penn State

Feb. 5 at Northwestern

Feb. 10 at Minnesota

Feb. 13 Purdue

Feb. 16 Michigan

Feb. 19 at Michigan State

Feb. 22 at Ohio State

Feb. 26 Iowa

March 1 at Purdue

March 5 Indiana

*Coaches vs. Cancer in New York City

†(in St. Louis)

KEY GAME

Eight months after falling to the Tar Heels in the 2005 national title game, Illinois exacted revenge with a 68--64 victory. This is their first meeting since, and it comes in the middle of the Illini's treacherous nonconference schedule.

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PHOTO

DAVID E. KLUTHO

DEMETRI MCCAMEY The high-flying point guard has the talent to lead the nation in assists—but first he has to learn to slow down.