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Buffalo Grove Saturday, 1/12/13 Buffalo Grove's Scott Smithern (10) tries to get past New Trier's Stas Banas (21) during the fourth quarter of Saturday's game. New Trier won the game, 65-56. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
Whenever Andrew Apel turns around, he’s there.
At school, on the bus, in the backfield, in the backcourt — no matter where Apel goes, Scott Smithern isn’t far behind.
As the only two athletes at Buffalo Grove who play on both the football and boys basketball teams, Apel and Smithern have developed a unique bond forged by overlapping exploits. Whether it’s completing a handoff or a backdoor cut, the two juniors are stuck doing it together.
“We definitely have developed a brotherhood,” Apel said. “At football, I’m handing the ball off to him 35 times at practice. Then I go to basketball, and I’m passing him the ball 35 times. I get a feel for how he moves around the court as well as on the field.”
Apel plays quarterback and guard for the Bison, while Smithern plays running back and guard. Some kids might grow weary of seeing the same face every day, but Buffalo Grove’s dynamic duo has utilized their time together to make themselves — and their teammates — better.
“We always try to push each other, because we know what each other can do,” Smithern said. “We’re kind of the motivators on the football and basketball teams. We have the most emotions, so we get everyone going.”
Three years into their high school careers, chemistry is no longer an issue for Apel and Smithern. Transitioning between the two sports, however, remains a challenge.
“We took a few days off after the football season, then tried to start running right away,” Apel said. “The biggest thing was our footwork. We have to work every day on our footwork, sliding our feet, and we’re still getting the hang of it.”
Smithern added that though he and Apel thought they were in great shape from football, the conditioning needed for basketball is different.
“The conditioning is a lot different,” Smithern said. “In football you get breaks after each play and in basketball, it’s continuous. So it’s a rude awakening.”
Besides the conditioning, the tandem has had to reel in their physicality at certain points during the basketball season. The muscular 6-foot-1 Apel admitted that most of his fouls are charges whistled on his barreling drives to the hoop.
But that’s something that coach Ryan O’Connor doesn’t want to see change.
“I’m never going to get mad at someone for being too physical,” O’Connor said. “We like that; that’s who we are.”
So far this season, the hardnosed pairing of Apel and Smithern has paid dividends for O’Connor and the Bison. With leading-scorer Luke Potnick having an off game against Maine East Jan. 23, Apel and Smithern combined for 31 points to fuel 64-56 comeback win.
Apel and Smithern make such a good combo that it will be a strange sight to see Apel take the baseball field without his running mate in the spring. But for now, Smithern will be there whenever Apel needs him.
“I always know where Scott’s going to be,” Apel said. “We’re, like, attached at the hip.”