Growing up with an older brother in the same house and an older cousin nearby, Scott Scholl had to be tough if he wanted to have success doing anything.
The lessons he learned competing in the driveway and on the playground have served him well the the past 2 years.
During football season his senior year at Polo High School, Scholl tore the anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his right knee. He was forced to sit and watch the Marcos' basketball season, and felt his final year at Polo was lacking something despite returning during track season and helping the 1,600 relay team qualify for the state meet.
Determined to make some more memories on the basketball court, Scholl signed to play with the Sauk Valley Skyhawks. After working hard throughout the offseason to make sure he was 100 percent, lightning struck again: he tore the ACL and meniscus in the same knee on the first day of practice.
"It was really frustrating, just really disappointing," Scholl said. "To come back and prepare all summer, then to have it happen again before I really even got a chance to play last year, that was tough. I couldn't do anything but sit and watch – again – and there wasn't anything I could do about it."
But instead of folding up shop, Scholl showed his mental fortitude. A year after going through surgery to replace his ACL with a section of his own patellar tendon, Scholl again visited Dr. Scott Trenhaile in Rockford, this time for surgery to replace the now-torn patellar tendon section with one from a cadaver.
He spent another spring and summer on rehab mode, and as it has quite often throughout his life, Scholl's hard work paid off. He is back with the Skyhawks, and providing quality minutes off the bench in his first basketball season since 2009-10.
"It was a lot easier the second time around; I barely had to talk to the physical therapist at all because I knew what exercises I needed to do and the schedule of when to do them," Scholl said. "The biggest difference was I took it a lot slower the second time, didn't push myself through the rehab quite as hard.
"I knew as soon as it happened the second time that it was the same thing, because my leg went all numb and everything felt the same. But I also had no doubt that it would heal again and I could get back from it."
Scholl also had a good memory to push him through. On his Senior Night at Polo, Scholl was inserted into the game for the opening tip-off against AFC. In an orchestrated maneuver, the Marcos won the tip and threw it to Scholl under the basket for a layup. Messer immediately called timeout and removed Scholl to a standing ovation from the Polo crowd.
"That was very special," Scholl recalled. "It was totally Coach Messer's idea, and I thought it was a great idea when he talked to me about it. The AFC coach was very understanding about it, and the fans were so great. It was very emotional, and meant a lot to me."
While the two seasons he was forced to spend watching from the sideline were excruciating to the competitive Scholl, the things he's learned from the time off have been invaluable. He spent his childhood going to Sauk Valley's summer camps, and learned the coaching style of Russ Damhoff; last year, he got an up-close look at the Skyhawks from sitting behind the bench.
"I was definitely mentally prepared after learning so much just sitting and watching last year," Scholl said. "I know the plays and the calls and the defenses and everything, and it's helped me play with more confidence.
"It's pretty cool that Coach Damhoff gane me the chance to play here after growing up coming to all the camps since third or fourth grade. I feel as healthy as I ever have, and I'm making the most of that chance to finally get back on the court and play basketball again."
His hunger to play has been evident to Damhoff. Scholl is averaging 1.1 points and 1.6 rebounds per game, but it's not the stat sheet that impresses the longtime Sauk coach when he watches the 6-foot-3 forward play.
"Honestly, I didn't know if he'd get a lot of playing time," Damhoff said, "but he's come along so well. The way you define talent is how a guy plays in real-game situations, and it's hard to keep Scott off the court. He plays hard, gives so much effort every time, and he's done a nice job providing a spark for us off the bench.
"He's not the most athletic or skilled guy, and he's so small that you're afraid sometimes to put him at the power forward position. But he knows how to play the game, and he's tough, man – you have to be to come back from back-to-back ACL surgeries. He's enjoying his chance to play ball, and it's fun to see him out there on the floor."
High school: Polo, class of 2011
College: Sauk Valley, class of 2013
Ht./Pos.: 6-foot-3 forward
2012 stats: 10 points, 14 rebounds, 5 steals, 4 assists, 1 block, 1 turnover in 9 games
FYI: Missed senior year of high school and first year at Sauk after tearing ACL in right knee twice. … Returned from first injury to run in the 1,600 relay for the Marcos at the 2011 state track meet.