UW men's basketball: Badgers' Kaminsky to play against longtime friend for first time since grade school

2012-01-18T10:15:00Z 2012-01-18T11:16:46Z UW men's basketball: Badgers' Kaminsky to play against longtime friend for first time since grade schoolJIM POLZIN | Wisconsin State Journal | jpolzin@madison.com | 608-252-6473 | @JimPolzinWSJ madison.com

After the Benet Academy boys basketball team finishes practice late this afternoon, its coach will jump in his car and hustle to Madison.

Gene Heidkamp plans to arrive at the Kohl Center in plenty of time to watch warmups before the start of a Big Ten Conference men's basketball game between the University of Wisconsin and Northwestern. Once he finds his seat, Heidkamp anticipates spending 2½ hours or so beaming with pride.

Heidkamp coached UW freshman center Frank Kaminsky and Northwestern freshman point guard Dave Sobolewski for three seasons at Benet Academy, a Catholic high school in the western Chicago suburb of Lisle, Ill.

"It's going to be exciting," Heidkamp said. "It's going to be fun. To see both of those guys playing in such great programs, it's something that we're really proud of. The whole school is excited about the game."

For Kaminsky and Sobolewski, the meeting will be strange. Their friendship dates to kindergarten, and they've played basketball together since fifth grade.

"It's going to be weird, real weird," Kaminsky said. "I haven't played against him since fourth grade. It's going to be a little weird to see him on the other team."

Kaminsky and Sobolewski attended St. Joan of Arc, a Catholic grade school in Lisle, from kindergarten through eighth grade. Sobolewski always was the point guard and Kaminsky always was one of the biggest kids on the court.

"We've won a lot of games together," Sobolewski said.

From St. Joan of Arc, Kaminsky and Sobolewski went two miles across town to Benet, which has an enrollment of 1,350 students and an annual tuition of $9,300. Before the two future Division I players arrived, the Redwings' claim to fame was their state-record 102-game home winning streak from 1975 to 1987.

Kaminsky and Sobolewski helped put Benet back on the map. As juniors, they led the Redwings deep in the Illinois High School Association playoffs. Benet fell two wins short of reaching the final in Illinois' highest division, losing to eventual champion Chicago Simeon in two overtimes in the Chicago Super Sectional.

Benet was so good last season it was ranked among the top 10 teams in the country by USA Today at one point. Even when back spasms sidelined Sobolewski for four games around the holidays, the Redwings kept rolling.

While Sobolewski was sidelined, Benet turned to an unlikely source to run the offense - the 6-foot-11 Kaminsky.

"Frank played point guard, and it worked out pretty well," Heidkamp said of Kaminsky, who was 6-3 as a freshman in high school before two significant growth spurts. "It worked out pretty well. I had confidence in his ability to handle the ball. He's very skilled for a player his size."

Kaminsky and Sobolewski, a three-year starter, both averaged about 14 points per game as seniors and took turns being the star. Case in point: Kaminsky scored 39 points in a regional semifinal victory and Sobolewski had 41 in the regional final.

The Redwings' season ended with an upset loss to East Aurora in the sectional semifinals, Benet's only defeat in 30 games.

"They both have really good basketball IQs and they both work really hard at what they do," Heidkamp said of Kaminsky and Sobolewski, who also played together on the Illinois Wolves AAU team for two seasons. "Neither one of them likes to lose."

Kaminsky had a scholarship offer from Northwestern but chose to accept one from the Badgers. He's averaging 2.5 points, 1.7 rebounds and 8.1 minutes in 18 games off the bench for UW (14-5, 3-3).

The 6-1 Sobolewski has made a huge impact with the Wildcats (12-5, 2-3), who have put themselves in position to make a run at their first trip to the NCAA tournament. He's started all 17 games, is averaging 8.2 points and has a league-best 4.2 assist-to-turnover ratio.

"He's a smart player," Kaminsky said. "He knows what to do in a lot of situations, he's a great shooter and he's got a lot of strength for a point guard. He's just a good overall player."

Kaminsky and Sobolewski figure they've played at least 350 games together since they first became teammates at St. Joan of Arc. Now, they're rivals in one of the premier leagues in the country - and Heidkamp couldn't be more giddy.

"I'm just looking forward to the game and to see where the next four years takes both of those guys," Heidkamp said. "It's a great story around here to see them come out of nowhere and now all of a sudden they're playing in the Big Ten. I'm just really proud and excited for both of them."

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