Catotcin High School is in a Maryland town of 6,000 residents that practically hugs the Pennsylvania state line.
The school is home of the Cougars and to the only Indiana All-Star the Center Grove boys basketball team has ever produced.
Catotcin’s tallest authority figure at 6-foot-8, Andrew Smeathers, a secondary education major at nearby Mount St. Mary’s University now in the midst of student teaching, presides over two American Studies II classes and one psychology class daily.
The instructor-student dynamic is proving mutually fulfilling.
“I love it. It’s a lot of work, but so rewarding,” said Smeathers, who transferred from Butler University last December and is finally eligible to play in today’s game at American University. “Whenever you’re frustrated staying up until 1 a.m. after a three-hour basketball practice, you can’t bring any of that into the classroom.”
Just like Smeathers can’t drag any of what transpired in the classrooms of Catotcin into any of the Mountaineers’ practices or games.
Those recalling the wiry high school version of Smeathers might be surprised to discover he’s now a muscular 200-pound forward – some 30 pounds heavier than his Center Grove weight following an offseason dedicated to building his body.
“The coaches here wanted me to become stronger. We’ve got a new strength coach and a new weightroom,” Smeathers said. “It took me a lot longer to gain the right weight.”
Noticeably larger in the arms, chest and shoulders, Smeathers will primarily play at small forward for the Mountaineers (3-5) entering today’s game at American, located, fittingly, five miles from the White House in Washington, D.C.
Best-case scenario has Smeathers playing 30-plus minutes this afternoon inside the 4,500-seat sweatbox known as Bender Arena.
Maybe he drains a few long-range jumpers on his way to a college career-high point total, grabs seven or eight boards and blocks a shot for good measure while leading the Mount to victory.
Possible, yes. Likely, no.
Though he took part in 43 games as a Butler Bulldog, Smeathers’ last taste of actual game action came late in the 2012-2013 season in a 67-56 loss to St. Louis in the Atlantic 10 Tournament.
That was 21 months ago.
Smeathers, for lack of a more suitable adjective, is rusty.
Bigger, stronger, older, more mature and enthusiastic to get back on the court. But rusty.
“I’m just happy I’m playing. I just want to play and hope I still know how,” Smeathers said, laughing. “It’s tough because I’ve been a role player for so long and now they expect me to be a leader.
“It’s really challenged my basketball IQ because we get the ball and want to push it playing 70 or 80 possessions a game. It’s a run-and-gun type of offense.”
Mount St. Mary’s head coach Jamion Christian was an assistant coach at William & Mary the first time he met Smeathers. The two had kept tabs on the other’s basketball travels before finally teaming to represent the same program.
“I’ve known Andy since he was 15 years old, and I can say that I am extremely excited to coach him in the next part of his career,” Christian said. “He has been an outstanding performer for us in practice over the past year. Over the past year he has gotten stronger, gained weight and regained the confidence that we all saw in high school.
“His championship leadership ability he learned at Butler will help us here at the Mount immediately as we continue to march toward conference play.”
Mount St. Mary’s is a Division I program playing in the Northeast Conference. Other programs in the 10-team league include Farleigh Dickinson, Robert Morris, Wagner and LIU-Brooklyn.
Some were surprised when Smeathers decided to leave Butler. They were even more shocked when he opted to transfer to a small, private Catholic university in Emmitsburg, Maryland, a nine-hour drive east from Johnson County.
Sometimes a guy just has to get away.
“A lot of people will see what Butler is doing this season, but I’m very glad I moved out here,” Smeathers said. “I have been able to grow so much as a student, as a teacher and as a basketball player.”
THE SMEATHERS FILE
Name: Andrew Smeathers
Family: Parents, Jeff and Trish; brother, Jason, 24; sister, Madison, 17
High school: Center Grove – 2011
Major: Secondary Education
Favorite athlete: Reggie Wayne
Favorite teams: Colts and Pacers