When Stephen Curry arrived in Golden State, he was charged with the responsibility of being the floor general for a team looking to reverse its fortunes and bring hope to long-suffering fans.
The same could be said when Bryant McIntosh arrived in Evanston.
Tre Demps, perhaps Northwestern's best one-on-one offensive player, has always had the ability to put the ball in the basket. The question was if he could always stay in control on the offensive end and convert that skill into efficiency.
Who better to learn from than the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Penny Hardaway and Gary Payton?
Both McIntosh and Demps got the chance to learn from some of the world's best recently. McIntosh flew out to the Bay Area to work with the league's reigning MVP, as well as several coaches — Doug Collins among them -— at the Stephen Curry Select Camp. Demps attended the highly regarded Nike Basketball Academy, where some the country's top talent from both the college and high school levels congregated to workout and play in front of some of the most recognizable current and former NBA players.
Here is an inside look at their experiences:
McIntosh meets his favorite player
When Bryant McIntosh opened his email and saw that he had received a direct message on Twitter from Under Armour Hoops, he excitedly went to his account and clicked on the link in the message. A personal message from Stephen Curry popped up.
"It was unreal," the rising sophomore told Inside NU. "When I got it I thought I was dreaming a little bit, especially with him being my favorite player. I kind of had an idea before, but this made it for sure and Steph popped up and he knew my name and he was talking to me about the season. I was basically just jumping around."
Curry teamed up with Under Armour, with whom he signed a massive shoe and apparel deal in 2013, to bring 20 of the top point guards in the nation out to California from June 29-July 2, where the participants worked on a variety of skills, played some games and studied a lot of film.
"We would go in and watch film with Steph and he would break down certain moves, and then we would go out on the floor for two hours and work on the things we saw on film and the things we saw him do," McIntosh said. "The cool thing was not only did he show some great clips we can learn from, but he also showed some of his mistakes."
McIntosh added that the film sessions helped him dissect his own game. He identified some parallels between Curry's game and his own.
"The ability to sit down with Steph and watch film with him and see what’s going on in his head while he’s watching the game is a good way to go about watching myself and critiquing my game as well."
Among the coaches who helped Curry out was Doug Collins, Chris Collins' father. McIntosh said the thing Doug focused on most was trust, and how developing trust back at Northwestern would help the Wildcats
Current ESPN analyst and former college coach Fran Frischilla also helped out at the camp, and was highly impressed with Northwestern's point guard:
As a freshman, McIntosh was remarkably consistent for most of the season. But in February and March, he tired from the grind of a long season and the grueling, physical basketball that is the Big Ten. So he picked Curry's brain on how to remain sharp both physically and mentally throughout the season. The two have somewhat similar builds: both stand 6-foot-3; McIntosh weighs 177 pounds; Curry is slightly bigger at 190 pounds now, but he was listed at 185 in his final year at Davidson.
But perhaps the most important takeaway for Northwestern's ball-handler was how to be a leader on and off the court.
"The biggest thing I took away was how he stays sharp and how he became a better leader through his years at Golden State, taking them from a low-level Western Conference team just barely making the playoffs or not making the playoffs to becoming world champions," McIntosh said. "He changed the culture there. I can bring it back and instill some of that in our program because we’re going through a culture change as well.
"You've got to be a leader every day for your guys so you can be someone they look to no matter if times are good or times or bad," McIntosh continued. "He also talked to me about being more demonstrative and demanding, making sure guys get in the gym and get work, making sure it's a priority that we win everything we do, whether it's getting to class on time to getting to training tables; the small things lead to successful big things."
Demps gets Hall-of-Fame perspective
Demps name-dropped today's stars casually: LeBron James. Kobe Bryant. Kevin Durant. James Harden. Anthony Davis. Paul George. Oh, and he didn't forget standouts from the past: Scottie Pippen. Penny Hardaway. John Lucas. Gary Payton. Bruce Bowen.
Those were the guys counseling at this year's Nike Basketball Academy. For an explosive scorer like Tre Demps, it was a chance to match up with some of the nation's best college players while learning from the world's best.
"It was a world-class experience," the rising senior told Inside NU. "It doesn’t get any better than that because you definitely want to hear and learn from guys who have done it at the highest level. Overall, it was an unbelievable experience and I definitely felt like I took a lot away from the camp."
Matched up against some of the nation's premier guards — Kris Dunn of Providence, Denzel Valentine of Michigan State, Buddy Hield of Oklahoma and Isaiah Taylor of Texas — Demps was at first taken aback by the intensity of the camp, but said he quickly adjusted.
"It was definitely an adjustment — the intensity of play, the physicality was definitely an adjustment because I was going up against some of the top college guys in the country," Demps said. "It took a couple workouts to get adjusted to that but once I got in a rhythm I felt like I could compete with some of the best players in the country."
With so many elite college players in attendance, the camp was geared toward preparing players for the next level. Demps came away from it having learned a lot about what that will take.
"The camp for us was predicated on what it takes to be a pro," Demps told Inside NU. "The thing that they kept preaching was in order to play in the NBA, you have to have the skill set. It's not enough to just put up numbers in college basketball. NBA teams are looking for guys who have a specialty — whether it's shooting, getting in the lane — that you can bring to an NBA team. Everything was predicated on not only what it takes to be good in college but what it takes to be a good NBA player."
Demps also learned about his own game and what he needs to do to take the next step during the camp, which ran from June 26 through June 29.
"At the end of the camp, each player got evaluated. Each player went into a room with Scottie Pippen, Penny Hardaway, Gary Payton, John Lucas, Bruce Bowen and they gave us a very real breakdown of our game and a lot of constructive criticism. The main feedback I got is that I have the tools — the physicality, the skill set — but just need to slow down, change pace better and, at the next level kind of be a true point guard because of my size."
At this point, Demps is probably a fringe NBA prospect at best. But he is a fiery scorer who, when he's feeling it (or when the clock is winding down) is close to unstoppable. Demps had the reputation as a guy who bogs down the offense and forces bad shots — a reputation he rid himself of as the season progressed last year and continues to distance himself from.
"A lot of it was changing pace, being more patient off ball screens," Demps said. "One of the things they reiterated to me a lot was making the simple play."
Both McIntosh and Demps have been busy since the season ended, but neither plans to roam far from Welsh-Ryan Arena until August 22, when the team heads across the pond to Spain for a series of games.
The one area McIntosh plans to focus on is the weight room, where he hopes to see improvement from the entire team.
"A lot of us will be staying and working the camps so we can stay in the gym with each other and play pick-up. And we can stay in the weight room, because I think that's where a lot of us need to get better — becoming stronger on the floor so we can get through screens, et cetera."
Additionally, the team has started its first set of full-team workouts for the summer. For the first time, last year's team is getting to work with incoming freshmen Aaron Falzon, Jordan Ash and Dererk Pardon, and graduate transfer Joey van Zegeren. This past week, they've even been training with Navy SEALs.
"We're working on developing trust in each other," said McIntosh. "We develop that trust off the floor so on the floor, we know what each other is going to do, we can trust that we're going to do it the right way."