Illinois coach Bruce Weber felt as if he was in limbo the past few weeks as he awaited Demetri McCamey's and Mike Davis' decisions whether to remain in the NBA draft or return to school for one final year.
With both deciding Saturday to withdraw from the draft, Weber was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief and could stop trying to invent ways to replace his starting point guard and power forward for next season.
"This time of year, you can usually relax a little bit, and now it's more interesting than any other times," Weber said Saturday afternoon. "I'm proud of how they handled it. They communicated. They listened. They listened to what the NBA was saying. They did it the right way. Is there always some fear factor there? Yeah, it's always there.
"We can now focus what's at hand -- the new season."
McCamey was a first-team all-Big Ten selection last season, leading the Illini at 15.1 points per game and ranking second nationally with 7.1 assists per game.
Davis, an honorable mention all-Big Ten pick, was the top rebounder in the conference last season with 9.2 a game. He was third on the team in scoring, with 10.7 points a game
"This was a great experience, a blessing for me to follow my dream of playing in the NBA," McCamey said in a statement. "After going through workouts and talking with my family and coach Weber, I feel that it's in my best interest to return to school for my senior season.
"Point guards are judged on victories. I think our team can do big things next year, so I'm coming back to help us compete for championships and at the same time keep getting better so I can challenge for a first-round spot in next year's draft."
Illinois' chance for success in the 2010-2011 elevated with Saturday's news. Although Michigan State, Purdue and Wisconsin will have a bulk of their stars returning, Weber believed Illinois could also be in the mix for a conference title with the arsenal he will possess as the Illini returns their starting five and welcomes in one of the country's top recruiting classes.
"If everything goes right and everyone stays healthy, we have a chance to be very, very good," Weber said. "I hope the two Mikes [Davis and Mike Tisdale] and Demetri are ready and want to push for a championship. I think we have a championship-caliber team, but it has to start now."
A part of next year's motivation for Davis and McCamey will be the feedback they received while having their names in the draft. On Friday, Davis worked out for the Portland Trail Blazers and McCamey for the Houston Rockets. They also heard from the NBA's advisory committee.
"I think it's pretty obvious with Mike," Weber said. "It's his strength, getting strong, for him to continue to work on his skills. He's got the 4 [power forward] height and he can rebound like a 4, but he'll have to play offensively like a 3 if he's ever going to have an opportunity.
"With Demetri, just continue to be a more consistent shooter. Especially when he's tired, he has a tendency not to use his legs as much as he should. He lost a quite a bit of weight this year, and we've talked about him losing some more and being more athletic and explosive."
Davis and McCamey were unavailable for interviews on Saturday, but they are expected to talk to the media on Monday.
Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at email@example.com.