Illini's McCamey has reason to smile

Illinois guard Demetri McCamey had 22 points and 11 assists against Michigan State. AP Photo/Heather Coit

Illinois junior Demetri McCamey couldn’t keep the smile off his face on Saturday night as he drained NBA-length 3-pointer after NBA 3-pointer on his way to 22 points and 11 assists in the Illini’s win over Michigan State.

He deserved to, too. While often one of Bruce Weber’s most frustrating players because he doesn’t always play with a purpose and because Weber knows what McCamey is truly capable of, McCamey has lately given Weber and the Illini nation plenty to grin about.

McCamey’s name isn’t usually thrown around with the likes of his former high school teammate, Ohio State’s Evan Turner, or Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas in the Big Ten, but with the way McCamey has played in recent weeks, he should be considered right with them. Honestly, if Illinois makes a strong run here in the end and is right there for the conference title, McCamey should be in the running for the Big Ten Player of the Year, too.

There are only a few players in the country who are relied on as much as McCamey is for Illinois. Sure, he has his deficiencies – he’s replaced late in games by Jeff Jordan due to his defense and he sometimes relies too heavily on his jumper – but McCamey also is a as the prototypical combo guard. In his past four games – all wins – he’s averaged 15.5 points and 8.8 assists. In Big Ten play, he’s averaged 16.4 points (9th best) and 7.5 assists (first).

McCamey’s numbers are not only among the Big Ten’s leaders, but he’s right there with the nation’s premier all-around players, too. He isn’t too far off of Kentucky’s John Wall (16.4 points, 6.6 assists), Duke’s Jon Scheyer (18.9 points, 5.6 assist), Turner (18.9 points, 5.7 assists) and Kansas’ Sherron Collins (15.6 points, 4.3 assists).

McCamey may not be the NBA prospect some of those guys are, but right now, this season, at the college level, he deserves his due.

So smile, McCamey, smile.