The DePaulia

Cameron returns with new sense of confidence

New+Zealand+native+Flynn+Cameron+arrived+on+campus+this+winter+but+did+not+play.+
New Zealand native Flynn Cameron arrived on campus this winter but did not play.

New Zealand native Flynn Cameron arrived on campus this winter but did not play.

Photo courtesy of FIBA

Photo courtesy of FIBA

New Zealand native Flynn Cameron arrived on campus this winter but did not play.

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DePaul redshirt freshman basketball player Flynn Cameron wants to become a complete point guard.

Via an 11.3 point, 6.0 rebound, and 5.6 assist per game effort at the FIBA U18 Championships Aug. 5 to Aug. 11 in Thailand that included a 19 point, 12 assist, 10 rebound triple-double in a semifinal game against China, Cameron showed that that goal is realistic.

But there’s still one facet of his game that sticks out as a weakness.

“The first couple of trainings [practices] my shot was good, but there was one little weakness to it,” the 6-foot-3-inch, lefty point guard said in an interview Friday. “Because I shoot from the right side of my body and shoot it across my body, defenders would just sit on the right side and it just became an easy scout. As soon as they came to my right side, I couldn’t shoot. That was just an option taken away from me. I just worked probably since March on that. A lot of work has gone into my jump shot. There’s still adjustments to be made, but I think I’ve become a much better shooter.”

At the FIBA U18 Championships, Cameron showed why his jump shot is still a work in progress, shooting 27.3 percent from behind the 3-point line and 44 percent overall. The good news? At least in international competition, his 3-point shooting has incrementally improved. He shot 18.2 percent from 3-point land at the 2016 FIBA U18 Oceania Championships and 12.5 percent at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup.

All the hours spent in the gym have finally begun to pay dividends.

“He wasn’t the best shooter and he knew that so everyday he’d be in the gym putting up shots,” senior teammate Eli Cain said about his redshirt freshman teammate. “He knew what his weakness was and he’s always getting better. I feel like how well he played at FIBA was a testament to his hard work and everything he does when nobody else is watching. So it wasn’t a surprise to most of us.”

DePaul fans hope that his box-score stuffing magic at FIBA was a preview of what will happen when Cameron dons the Blue Demon red and blue for the first time next season. If that’s what ends up happening, it won’t surprise his teammates.

“He’s going to go after every rebound, he’s going to play as hard as he can, we know he can pass the ball, and he’s talented enough to score the ball into double digits,” Cain said. “When we saw the triple-double, we were proud of him, but we weren’t really shocked because we know what he can do. He shows it every time he plays with us.”

Cameron arrived on campus on Jan. 9 of last year. With 15 games remaining in the season, there were compelling arguments from both the crowd that wanted to redshirt him and from those who wanted him to play last season.

At that point, DePaul was 1-3 in the Big East with a .500 overall record and at least on paper still had a chance at a postseason tournament berth. Starting point guard Devin Gage had sustained a season-ending Achilles injury forcing Cain to play out of position to fill that void. There was a need for a true point guard. However, jumping in midseason on a new team at the position that commandeers the offense would have been a tall task for anybody. Plus, it would have been risky using Cameron for 15 games in a season where the Blue Demons didn’t seriously contend in the Big East or make a postseason tournament.

But another factor was ultimately most important when Cameron and head coach Dave Leitao made the decision to preserve his eligibility and take the redshirt last season.

“I was thinking I was going to play, but when I came here it came sort of a to be determined decision,” Cameron said. “It was whether I was confident. Really I wasn’t that confident in myself when I got here because I had so much going on with moving into my classes, getting a feeling for the school, and [acclimating to] the basketball team. So really the redshirt was my best option.”

His teammates agree with the diagnosis.

“I think he’s got his confidence back,” Cameron’s teammate Max Strus said. “He came in the middle of last season, and we just kind of threw him into practice on the scout team and he just kind of got lost a little bit in his own game. I think going back home really helped him out, going to play where he is comfortable, and just gaining his confidence back playing his own game. He’s been really good just playing point guard and getting everybody involved, scoring at his own pace, and playing at his own pace. He’s been very good since he came back [from FIBA].”

Billed as a pass first point guard with quick hands on the defensive end of the floor coming into DePaul, the redshirt year allowed Cameron to further develop the skillset he showcased in his box-score stuffing performances at the FIBA U18 Asian Championships. As he mentioned, it also allowed him to develop enough self-confidence to compete at the Division I level.

Sharing a position with the veteran Gage has also helped Cameron add new skills to his toolbox, particularly the skill of playing in the relatively fast offense that coach Leitao prefers to run (Blue Demons were 89th out of 351 teams in adjusted tempo per KenPom.com).

“What I’ve learned from him is pace,” Cameron said about Gage. “He sets the tone at trainings [practices]. He sets the tone when we play open gym. I feel like if I can guard him coming down on the fast break, I can guard anyone. He said he was going to teach me a couple more tricks he has up his sleeve, so I look forward to that.”

Cameron wouldn’t spill whether he or Gage would start for Leitao at point guard next season. Although he’d like to start, it wouldn’t be the end of the world for Cameron if he didn’t if it helped the team reach the one goal that stands above his development into a complete point guard in terms of importance.

“I want to win. I think we’re going to. How many games do we play in conference?”

Um 18. Wait 16, yeah 16….no it’s 18 (18 is the correct number).

“I want to go 18-0.”

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Cameron returns with new sense of confidence