Illinois junior Demetri McCamey has always been the player who takes a backseat to others.
In high school, Evan Turner overshadowed him on his own team. His cousin, Jacob Pullen, who went to a rival high school, often did the same in his own family. Even when compared to other point guards, McCamey was similar in age to Sherron Collins, Jerome Randle and Derrick Rose in the Chicago area.
When it came to college and McCamey’s NBA potential, the same pattern has followed. There’s plenty to like about McCamey’s game. He has good size. He can handle the ball. He can make the difficult pass. He’s strong to the basket. He can get hot outside. But overall, there have always been other point guards who have seemed more enticing.
ESPN NBA Draft expert Chad Ford has 32 point guards ranked for the upcoming draft. They range from No. 1 -- Kentucky’s John Wall, who is considered the draft’s top overall prospect, to No. 32 -- UNLV’s Derrick Jasper, who is ranked 215th overall. In between, there are guys like Georgia Tech’s Iman Shumpert, a Chicago-area product, at No. 7 and Wisconsin’s Trevor Hughes at No. 24.
Nowhere on the list is McCamey.
But that may soon change. As McCamey has put together dominant game after dominant game in the last few weeks, he’s begun to solidify himself as a future NBA player. If McCamey can continue his play, it’s hard to imagine that he wouldn’t be a more attractive pick than, say, the Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas (No. 8), Harvard’s Jeremy Lin (No. 15) or Arizona’s Nic Wise (No. 30).
One former NBA scout shared this about McCamey on Saturday: “I think he’s been good all year. It’s not about his scoring. We all know he can score. But his shooting is up eight percent, his 3-point shooting is up, and his assist-to-turnover ratio is at 2-to-1. He has good size and an active defender.
“I think he’s a rotation point guard [in the NBA], but not a starter. But he can be in a team’s rotation, for sure. I think he’ll be all over the board anywhere from 20 to 40 [in draft projections.]”
Leading up to Sunday’s matchup with Turner and Ohio State, McCamey was asked if he’d consider testing the NBA waters after his season.
“As of right now, I’m not worrying about it,” McCamey said. “I’m trying to win a Big Ten championship. After the season, I’ll worry about it.”
McCamey did acknowledge that he’s playing at the peak of his game right now, especially after having 27 points and seven assists in a win at Wisconsin and, before that, 22 points and 11 assists against Michigan State.
“I think I’ve played a lot of great games, but these last two I’ve stepped up,” he said. “Special players play special games, as coach always says.”
Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.