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Andrew Apel never expected to play much last season.
As a sophomore and a rookie on the Buffalo Grove boys basketball team, Apel wanted to focus his efforts on practice and let the rest take care of itself. He didn’t play many minutes at the start of the season, but by January, he was in the rotation as a guard and even earned several starts.
“I just kept up my intensity in practice and tried to make the guys in front of me better players,” Apel said. “I then realized that was making me a better player, and that ended up getting me time on the court.”
In his second season with the varsity team, Apel is a full-time starter and one of the Bison’s better players, especially on the offensive end. In Saturday’s 65-56 loss to New Trier, Apel scored a career-high 25 points. The night before, in a 63-56 loss to Rolling Meadows, Apel contributed 16 points.
Apel has shown throughout the season that he can be a reliable scorer when teams choose to take away senior guard Luke Potnik, who’s averaging more than 20 points a game.
“I was happy with how I played (Saturday),” Apel said. “I got into a rhythm and stayed aggressive. But I also stayed within myself. I didn’t do anything I wasn’t comfortable doing.”
Buffalo Grove coach Ryan O’Connor said Apel has benefitted from Potnik’s presence as well as Jonah Malin’s production on the perimeter.
“We wanted him to feel things out last year, but he developed more quickly than we anticipated,” said O’Connor, whose club came into the week 7-9 overall and 2-2 in the MSL East. “He had some success, and he hasn’t missed a beat this year as a junior. It goes to show you can evolve as a player during the season. There’s nothing to say you can’t change your role.”
Apel’s emergence as a secondary scorer was assisted by watching Potnik up close and on a daily basis, both in practice and in games. Apel understands most teams will pay attention to Potnik, creating opportunities for others to contribute.
“Coach told me that I will need to be able to step up,” said Apel, who spent the offseason improving his ball-handling and poise with the basketball. “I think I have stepped up, especially this last week. I want to do what I can to help the team.”
As good as he’s been on offense, Apel said he wants to be equally adept on the other end. He wasn’t pleased with how he played defense Saturday.
“Our defense depends so much on everybody doing their job,” he said. “I need to get better moving my feet and on my help-side defense.
“But guarding a guy like Luke in practice helps so much. He makes you a better defender.”