Photo: Flickr/Matt Heidelberger
Demetri McCamey just wrapped up his fourth summer league game with the Minnesota Timberwolves in a 92-54 throttling of the Sacramento Kings. McCamey has been a bit of a revelation for Minnesota here in Las Vegas, posting incredible efficiencies of .650 percent from the field and .727 percent from deep. Those are incredible numbers for a center, no less a 6’4 guard. On top of that, McCamey has been getting it done on both ends, leading the team in scoring with 11.3 points per game and 1.7 steals to boot.
While McCamey has been a big reason for the Timberwolves’ two-game winning streak after dropping their first two, he doesn’t take all of the credit for it. “We’ve got a great group of guys here,” said McCamey. “It’s easier to play when you have a group of guys like this willing to share the basketball and play hard on every possession. That’s what it’s all about when you get a great group of guys like that—it’s a great team and anything can happen. And fortunately I’m playing well.”
Strangely enough, it’s very unlikely that he will be joining the Timberwolves for the 2013-’14 season. After drafting Shabazz Muhammad and Lorenzo Brown and signing Kevin Martin to add to their backcourt, the Timberwolves likely won’t have room for McCamey despite his strong showing. However, with scouts from all over the NBA, D-League and overseas, McCamey knows that his performance will not be for naught.
“You’re playing for everybody,” said the guard. “I’m a free agent right now and I’m playing for everybody in the building. You’re playing for a job, you’re playing to survive and you’re playing for your family. After this, I’ll give it a week and talk to my agent, but you’re playing for everybody.”
And he certainly knows what he is talking about. Following a decorated career at the University of Illinois where McCamey earned All-Big Ten honors in three of his seasons and led the conference in assists in 2009-’10, he bounced around the professional basketball ranks a bit. First it was off to Turkey and Jerusalem the next season. Following his time overseas, McCamey earned a summer league invite with the Houston Rockets last season, and turned that opportunity into a stint with the Rockets’ D-League affiliate, the Rio Grande Vipers. Finally, he finished the 2013 season with the Erie Bayhawks and the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.
McCamey talked about the variance in playing overseas and in the D-League. He noted that once you get past that first month abroad, and get accustomed to the language barrier and adjust to the culture, it’s an enjoyable experience. However, McCamey also enjoys the familiarity of his surroundings in the D-League and being able to have his family watch his games.
Despite all of this movement, Demetri remains determined to earn an NBA roster spot. After all, McCamey went undrafted in 2011 and signed a one-year deal to play in Turkey only after the lockout went into effect. McCamey has also kept a positive attitude, viewing each opportunity as a chance to improve his skill set. The former Illini star noted that he’s grown tremendously since leaving school and the differing styles of play between the American and International game have brought the best out of him.
“Just knowing the game, playing the different games—playing the Europe games — that helps you with your shooting because they get a lot of shots over there,” said McCamey. “ In the NBA game, for point guards you’re learning reads and picking people apart with pick ‘n rolls and the spacing on the floor. The different areas made my game grow so much to that next level.”
As a point guard McCamey says he’s always looking to find his teammates first, but now he’s able to apply even more pressure on the defense because has evolved into a better scorer, being able to penetrate in the lane and keep opponents honest with his outside shooting. McCamey showcased his able to do these things during summer league, but he also displayed a thorough understanding of the game.
While he’s listed as a point guard, McCamey doesn’t subscribe to set positions saying, “It’s playing basketball and when you’re a basketball player there’s no such thing as positions.” He added, “You might get designed that [way] but in the game you gotta be able to play multiple positions. And that’s why I’ve been able to be successful so far in summer league playing off the ball and on the ball and just try to do my best at that position at that time.”
Basketball I.Q. is a trait that you can’t teach, and neither is the ability to seamlessly adapt to playing as the off-guard in a small ball lineup with teammates Kee Kee Clark and Lorenzo Brown to running the offense with bigger lineups as McCamey has during summer league. While playing as a 6’3 wing player may seem disadvantageous, smart players know how to use the tools that they have, as McCamey has by forcing turnovers and getting the Timberwolves quick fastbreak points. McCamey’s point is evident here: put smart basketball players together in a sensible order and they will acclimate.
With a determination to be great, an elevated basketball IQ and a number of valuable NBA tools, Demetri McCamey’s NBA debut could come sooner rather than later. McCamey’s performance this past week is what Chicago Tribune voters imagined when they voted him first team all-state alongside Evan Turner and Derrick Rose years ago. Considering how well McCamey has thrived in front of hundreds scouts on this stage, he may just be ready for the big stage.