Senior send off
Demetri McCamey and Mike Davis are focused on creating a legacy
They both have had their share of individual successes over their three seasons in Champaign, but so had plenty of other skilled players who have now been forgotten. They realize what has made the likes of Dee Brown, Deron Williams, Kendall Gill and Nick Anderson so beloved and unforgettable to the Illini nation to this day was that they were not only gifted players, but that they won a ton of games.
Davis and McCarney can't say that about themselves. In three seasons, they've gone 61-44 overall, 26-28 in the Big Ten, been to the NCAA tournament once, lost in that one game and this past year reached the NIT quarterfinals.
Thee two let it be known Tuesday while talking for the first time since making their decisions to withdraw from the NBA draft that their priority now is to a leave a lasting impression on Illinois basketball.
"We haven't left a legacy here," Davis said. "We haven't done that much. People will say, 'What have Mike and Demetri done?' We haven't hung a banner. We want to do that.
"It definitely stays with me. I haven't won a NCAA tournament game. I've only played in one. Last year, we played in the NIT, and we couldn't even win that [tournament]. I don't have any titles. I want to win a Big Ten or something to leave our mark."
McCamey set his goals even higher.
"Now, I'm worried about Illinois winning a national championship," McCamey said. "Just to be mentioned with the Dees and Derons, they're part of the history of Illinois basketball. They were all winners. That's what we need to do."
Neither Davis nor McCamey regretted testing the NBA draft waters. Both were asked to workouts with NBA teams. Davis was flown to work out for the Portland Trail Blazers; McCamey to the Houston Rockets. Both received advice from NBA personnel they felt will prepare them for their senior seasons and next year's draft.
"The process was good," Davis said. "It was a good experience to go out to Portland. They told me some feedback. They felt I had the athleticism. They told me I have to get bigger and stronger with the NBA, obviously, being a man's game. They told me to shoot the corner 3.
"That's definitely motivation. To hear it from Coach [Bruce] Weber is one thing. He harps on you all the time. But if you hear it from someone else, a higher up from the best league in the world, it reinforces what Coach says."
The common assumption was Davis would return to school. McCamey's decision wasn't as certain. Davis even thought he might lose his point guard.
"Early on, I thought he was leaning toward staying in the draft," Davis said. "Even now, I think he's the second or third best point guard in the draft. I thought he might stay in. It's not a real deep draft for point guards."
McCamey fought with the decision for some time as a few people did tell him he could be a late first-round or early second-round pick.
"It was up and down," McCamey said. "It was tough, but at the same time, I had to think about what the best future plan was for me. It took a while for me to get to that. Everyone said I would be picked, but the best interest for me to stay in the NBA after my rookie contract was to come back to school."
The news of the duo's return has boosted Illinois' stock for next season. With both back, nearly everyone else returning and an incoming freshman class that includes three highly touted recruits in Jereme Richmond, Meyers Leonard and Crandall Head, the Illini appear to be a top-20 lock in the opening polls next fall. ESPN.com senior writer Andy Katz had Illinois at No. 15 in his newest rankings.
"There's a lot of hype about us now," Davis said. "It's exciting, definitely. We want to live up to expectations. Guys are committed more than ever to working hard and getting to that level."
Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.