CHAMPAIGN — Illinois basketball fans can breathe a sigh of relief. Guard Demetri McCamey and forward Mike Davis will return to the Illini for their final year of eligibility, giving the team its top scorer and leading rebounder from last season. Combined with the addition of another strong recruiting class and the maturation of a young roster, Illinois will shoot for an upper-division finish in a tough Big Ten Conference next season.

Illinois basketball fans can breathe a sigh of relief.

Guard Demetri McCamey and forward Mike Davis will return to the Illini for their final year of eligibility, giving the team its top scorer and leading rebounder from last season. Combined with the addition of another strong recruiting class and the maturation of a young roster, Illinois will shoot for an upper-division finish in a tough Big Ten Conference next season.

McCamey and Davis, both juniors, submitted their names in April for the NBA draft. Each worked out with an NBA team Friday, and then they pulled their names from consideration Saturday to beat the deadline to retain NCAA status.

“I am so proud of the way Demetri and Mike went through this process,” Illinois coach Bruce Weber said in a written statement. “They were receptive to the information they received and made mature, informed decisions. Demetri and Mike feel strongly about our program.

“They now have the opportunity to leave their mark on Fighting Illini basketball by graduating, leading us to a successful season and continuing to improve their game so that a year from now they can have the opportunity to play in the NBA.”

This was the outcome widely expected by outsiders who didn’t see McCamey or Davis as first-round picks who get the guaranteed contracts, but there was nervousness — especially with McCamey — until the final decision was announced.

Maybe next year

The NBA advisory committee said McCamey could go somewhere in the second round, Weber said, and McCamey was generally considered a year away from being a real first-round prospect. McCamey always insisted he would only consider a guaranteed first-round slot.

“This was a great experience, a blessing for me to follow my dream of playing in the NBA,” McCamey said in a statement released through the university. “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.”

McCamey was a first-team all-Big Ten pick last season and averaged a team-high 15.1 points while also ranking second in the nation with 7.1 assists per game. He had a workout with the Houston Rockets on Friday.

Davis worked out for the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday after averaging 10.7 points and a team-high 9.2 rebounds last season.

“I put my name in to hear from NBA personnel (on) which areas of my game I need to make improvement,” Davis said. “Deep down I knew another year of school was best for me, but having the chance to work out and get that feedback were helpful so I’m thankful for that opportunity. Now I’m motivated to work harder than ever so that we can have a great year next year, get back to the NCAA tournament and make a run.”

With McCamey’s scoring and playmaking returning along with Davis’ ability to rebound and secure double-doubles, there’s much more excitement about the upcoming season. After settling for an NIT berth last season, the Illini could be capable of making a run in the NCAA tournament.

Without McCamey, Illinois would have struggled to find a point guard and likely faced the possibility of sharing the load among players inexperienced at the college level. That would have put a cloud over the season before it started.

John Supinie can be reached at 217-377-1977.