- Scott Powers, Reporter
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CHICAGO -- Former Illinois point guard Demetri McCamey expects to be selected in the first round of the NBA draft on June 23.
McCamey, who is participating in the NBA pre-draft camp at ATTACK Athletics in Chicago this week, has worked out individually for the Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards, and has a workout scheduled for May 31 with the Chicago Bulls. The New York Knicks and the Portland Trail Blazers also have expressed interest in him.
"I think I should be in the first round, and that's my goal," McCamey said. "That's something I'll be very proud of if I accomplish that on draft night."
After training McCamey prior to the pre-draft camp, former NBA coach Bob Hill agreed with McCamey's draft projection. Hill thought he knew what he was working with when McCamey arrived in San Antonio last month, but he was pleasantly surprised to discover that McCamey can elevate and finish with authority.
"It's important for point guards when they get in the painted area that they get high enough to compete with the big guys," Hill said. "He has that capability. I didn't know he had that. I didn't know he could dunk as well as he can, especially on his drive to the basket around the restricted line. I think teams will be surprised by that in terms of him playing at another level in air space."
With that added dimension to McCamey's game to go along with his size, above-average shooting stroke, open-court game and ability to create for his teammates, Hill believes McCamey will impress NBA general managers enough to be taken in the first round.
"Today, the individual workouts are very significant to where he's going to be put in the draft," Hill said. "He'll be a first-round pick. I think once he goes through the process and does his individual workouts, he'll be a first-round pick.
"As a point guard, I don't see a whole lot of difference between McCamey and Kentucky's Brandon Knight. [Knight] has a big upside, but it's going to take him a while to get where he's going to get. The NBA is hard. It's hard to be good in the NBA. All that entitlement disappears when you have to work at it and play against the veterans. You have to prove what everyone says you are. A little older guy like Demetri might benefit a little more from that."
McCamey, who averaged 14.8 points, 6.1 assists and 3.4 rebounds last season, showed an explosiveness occasionally during his career, but often settled for mid-range jumpers and 3-pointers. During his senior season, 44.5 percent of his shots were from 3-point range and he averaged just 3.7 free throws a game.
McCamey said his new burst in speed is due to a recent weight loss and the open space the NBA game allows. He has dropped nearly 10 pounds since Illinois' season ended in March and now weighs 198 pounds.
"Since the heat out in San Antonio is crazy, I've lost a lot of weight," McCamey said. "The goal was 200-203 [pounds.] I'm getting quicker. When I first started last season, I was going down to 203 and 205, then I was up to 210. You can feel the weight especially playing as many minutes as I did at the University of Illinois. It takes a tear on your body.
"I'm getting a little buzz for myself. (Teams are) happy with the weight loss and seeing things that they didn't see at Illinois like dunking and continuing to get better. I've lost some weight and got my explosion back and dunking pretty easy."
Illinois coach Bruce Weber is happy to see McCamey followed his advice and dropped some weight.
"I was walking out (of the pre-draft camp) and a couple of the NBA guys said 'Why wasn't McCamey looking like that for you?' " Weber said on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "I gave him a goal to be under 200 by the time this week came, and he texted me the other night and said 'Coach, I lost six pounds; I'm right around 200.' I'm happy for him. I want him to make it. He's a good kid."
Hill is hesitant to compare McCamey to a current NBA player, but said he sees some Chauncey Billups in him.
"I said the other day I'm a big Chauncey Billups fan," Hill said. "I think he was the prototypical point guard. There wasn't much he couldn't do. I think he's a little bit bigger than Demetri, but Demetri can be like a younger Chauncey. I saw Demetri in college. He was fabulous running the break, pushing the offense, making the right decisions in the open court, and he can shoot. He's a good shooter. I think his 3-point range will get more comfortable with time in the NBA. He now he has the ability to jump and finish around the rim."
In McCamey's senior season, the Illini went 20-14 overall and 9-9 in the Big Ten and lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament to Kansas.
"To me, we didn't get the most wins we could have got," McCamey said. "But as far as the previous season [2009-10] and not making the tournament and having that disappointment, to come back to the tournament this year and win a game, that's a successful season to me. I got my team farther. I think we did better for the year. I think I did my job on that. I think it was a success even though we had our ups and downs."
Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at email@example.com.
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