Illinois coach Bruce Weber began to worry for his former players as the NBA draft pushed into the late second round on Thursday night.
“I knew which teams had called us,” said Weber, who watched the entire draft with his current team. “If this team picks this guy ... You’re whittling things down. Some of the teams hadn’t worked guys out, and you probably knew they were long shots to get picked up.”
As Weber feared, none of his former players would be among the 60 players selected into the 2011 draft.
Heading into the draft, there had been the possibility of three former Illini players to be taken. Power forward Mike Davis had an outside shot at going late in the second round. Small forward Jereme Richmond was considered a late second-round pick. Point guard Demetri McCamey had the greatest odds, and there were rumors he could be drafted in the first round.
“I was disappointed,” Weber said. “Each case was different. Most of the feedback we got from teams was Demetri was going to get drafted. We had heard as high as the late first round. I got that from a lot of people. That’s the craziness of the draft. One or two teams that liked you pick someone else or someone they didn’t think would be available is.”
McCamey’s camp had a similar reaction to the draft.
“Very shocked,” McCamey’s agent Roger Montgomery texted on Friday morning. “Had zero clue he would go undrafted.”
McCamey was still coming to grips with what happened on Friday. Montgomery texted that McCamey was “not in the mood to talk.”
ESPN basketball analyst Stephen Bardo was also surprised, but he thought McCamey might be better off by not being drafted late in the second round.
“You can now go to a team that has a need,” Bardo said. “Demetri might be better off to choose which team he goes to. It’s a situation where he might have a better chance to make it the NBA than a late second-round pick.”
The Atlanta Hawks could be one destination for McCamey. Weber said the Hawks had expressed a lot of interest in McCamey before the draft, but they had only one selection on Thursday and went with a big man.
For Richmond, his future includes more uncertainty. Richmond left Illinois after one season despite plenty of people telling him he should stay, but he was certain he would hear his name called on Thursday.
Draft experts had projected Richmond as a potential late first-round pick early in the process, but he continued to slide the last few months. ESPN NBA draft analyst Chad Ford had Richmond going to the Cleveland Cavaliers as the 54th overall pick in his final mock draft.
Richmond had a rocky freshman season for the Illini. He left the team for a few days and returned home to deal with a personal issue in January, was involved in an altercation with teammate Brandon Paul at the Big Ten tournament and was benched for the Illini’s two NCAA tournament games for violation of an athletic department rule. On the court, he showed glimpses of his McDonald’s All-American ability, but also struggled.
Bardo didn’t think Richmond would be selected based on his off-the-court issues.
“I wasn’t surprised that Jereme Richmond didn’t get drafted,” Bardo said. “I think he had too many question marks and rumors coming out about him. These guys do their due-diligence. They’re investing millions of dollars in these players. They’re going to know things going on. They start talking to people in the program. If things are negative all around, that’s not a good sign.
“Unfortunately, I think he’s like a lot of players. It’s NBA or bust. It’s amazing to me. I think younger players today they’re getting no advice. It was always when I was coming through if you didn’t go in the first round, you’d go back to school. It was as simple as that.”
Weber wished Richmond would have returned.
“In Jereme’s case, it’s a tough thing because he had another option,” Weber said. “Those guys were seniors and didn’t have options. It was certainly emphasized in talking to his family, and they made the decision and now he has to take a shot at the D-League or look overseas.”
A message left for Richmond’s agent was not immediately returned on Friday.
Making the future even more unknown for all three players is a probable NBA lockout, which would lead to the NBA’s summer leagues being cancelled.
“It’s going to be a long wait-and-see process,” Bardo said.
Bardo realized Friday would be a difficult day for those not drafted, but he thought there was a way of making the best of it.
“It’s a painful lesson,” Bardo said. “A guy like Jereme Richmond, who is obviously not getting good advice, he’s probably walking around in a daze. He probably didn’t expect to be in this situation. But whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. It humbles you. There’s nothing wrong with being humbled. You can stay angry or get to work. Hopefully, they will get to work and will be ready when all this is resolved.”