Loyola's McCammon thriving off bench

CHICAGO -- Coach Jim Whitesell doesn’t know why Loyola senior Geoff McCammon plays better off the bench than he does as a starter.

With McCammon as a starter, Loyola is 4-5, and he averages 11.1 points, and shooting .409 from the field and .354 from three-point range.

With McCammon coming off the bench, Loyola is 9-6, and he averages 15.6 points, and is shooting .444 from the field and .464 from three-point range.

Whitesell doesn’t need an explanation for the discrepancy. The numbers show McCammon is better off the bench so that’s how his coach decided to use him.

Problem fixed. Case closed.

“For whatever reason, he plays better off the bench,” Whitesell said. “I think as a coach you try to figure out what’s best for the group and keep doing that.”

McCammon didn’t quite understand Whitesell’s solution at first.

“If I would have my preference, I would start,” the 6-foot-4 shooting guard McCammon said. “If someone asked me what I like doing better, I like starting.”

But McCammon isn’t complaining. He has come to terms with the situation. He doesn’t start, but he plays starters’ minutes, averaging a team-high 29.3 minutes and is on the floor when the game matters most.

“What kind of leader would I be if I complained about not starting?” McCammon said.

McCammon has had to wait his turn to play that role as well. He was a late bloomer at Conant High School in Hoffman Estates, Ill., and it carried over to Loyola. As a freshman and sophomore, he played a total of 149 minutes and scored 46 points in 31 games.

Heading into his junior season, McCammon switched his training regimen. He worked out at Jeff Pagliocca’s Evolution Athletics in Buffalo Grove, Ill., and trained with Philadelphia 76ers guard Evan Turner, former Duke star Jon Scheyer, Northwestern’s John Shurna, Purdue’s E’Twaun Moore and other elite players.

McCammon took in everything around him. He observed how those players shot, passed and defended. He noticed the drills they did and the hard work and time they put into their games.

“The biggest thing I learned was these are guys who really like to play,” McCammon said. “Those guys have great work ethics. Jon Scheyer gets in the gym, and he really shoots. He never leaves. Turner, I knew him in high school. He was the first person to be honest with me. ‘You’re being too mechanical, be loose.’ They’re good guys.”

Putting in the sweat was no big deal for McCammon either. He prides himself on his work ethic.

“I’ve always been an under-the-radar kind of guy,” McCammon said. “I never played AAU or anything. The thing I had was practice. That’s how I think I’ve gotten to where I am. My parents were really hard-working, and my mom always told me it’s never going to be an easy thing. If you work hard, you see that in your work.

“I love practicing. I’m the one guy who likes all the skill work. The offseason is always fun.”

Whitesell can attest to that. When McCammon was recruited by Loyola, he could score, but he wasn’t a terrific shooter. Four years later, McCammon is as dangerous anyone in the Horizon League from deep.

McCammon leads the conference with 63 three-pointers and is fifth in three-point percentage at .414. He hit eight three-pointers against San Francisco and has had 11 games of three-or-more three-pointers this season.

“I think he’s really, really, really worked hard on his shooting,” Whitesell said. “Geoff is a worker. He’s generally the last guy to get out of the gym. He’s spent a lot of time working on that. He takes a lot of pride in that.”

McCammon believes his best days are ahead. He was slow to arrive on the high school scene. He did the same in the college. He believes the same can happen at the professional level.

“That’s what I’m hoping for,” McCammon said. “I feel like I was always a step behind. I’m a senior, and I’m coming on. That’s what it feels like. It feels the same way as senior year in high school.”