On Friday night, 2021 Millard North wing Hunter Sallis led the Mustangs to the A-6 district final with a 54-39 win over Lincoln Southwest at the Stable.
Sallis didn’t make a field goal until the third quarter but he still led all scorers with 14 points on 4-of-11 from the field and 6-of-10 from the free-throw line. He chipped in five rebounds, three assists and a steal.
Tied at 20-all, Millard North closed the first half on a 10-1 run to take control. Lincoln Southwest scored on its first two possessions then didn’t score again the rest of the quarter. The Mustangs led 41-25 after three and cruised through the fourth quarter.
Millard North will face Omaha Westside on Tuesday with a berth to the state tournament on the line.
Last season as a freshman, Sallis averaged 4.3 points per game. This year, he’s leading the team in scoring at 18.0 points per game.
“This summer I was working on my game a lot, working on all aspects,” Sallis told Hail Varsity. “I feel like Coach [Tim] Cannon’s letting me really play like myself and that’s helped me embrace that role that Nick [Ferrarini] left.”
As a senior last year, Ferrarini put up 21.1 points per game as the first option for the Mustangs. He’s now starting for Division II Wayne State as a freshman and putting up 10.1 points per game.
After cracking double figures just once as a freshman, he’s hit that mark in 20 of his 23 games this year. Sallis said his jump shot is the part of his game that he’s improved the most; he’s shooting 40 percent from deep on juts under two attempts per game.
Friday’s win was the ninth in a row for the Mustangs who were sitting at .500 midway through January. What’s been the key to the team’s turnaround?
“Our defense, most of the time,” Sallis said. “We’ve held like the last four teams under 50 points, so it’s been our defense.”
Millard North also got some reinforcements in sophomore point guard Adam Parra and senior guard Jake Meade. Parra had to sit out 90 days after transferring from Omaha Skutt and Meade suffered a preseason injury. Millard North hasn’t lost with both of them in the lineup.
Sallis got a pleasant surprise not too long ago when Rivals rolled out its updated player rankings including a top-75 for the 2021 class. Sallis was ranked 50th in the country as a 4-star prospect. Rivals analyst Corey Evans took notice of Sallis back in July while he was playing with the Omaha Sports Academy Crusaders.
Strong tandem of guards for OSA Crusaders. Preston Murphy Jr and Hunter Sallis have the chance to be recruited at the highest level. Strong prospects out of the 2021 class
— Corey Evans (@coreyevans_10) July 22, 2018
The flurry of high-major offers that followed only backed up Evans’ early assessment and culminated in his lofty ranking.
“I was shocked, but I don’t really look into that stuff because it’s just a ranking,” Sallis said, although he did admit it was cool to see his hard work recognized.
Sallis earned his first offer from Drake back in May after a strong spring. Former Creighton assistant Darian DeVries took over the Drake job in March and his son, Tucker, plays on the same OSA team as Sallis.
Offers from Ole Miss, Creighton, Iowa State and Nebraska followed, and Sallis is hearing from other schools as well.
“I talk to Iowa State,” Sallis said. “I just started talking to K-State. Nebraska, Creighton, Iowa, Colorado and I talk to Ole Miss too.”
Sallis took an unofficial visit to Kansas State on Feb. 16.
The two in-state schools have followed Sallis very closely. Creighton assistant Preston Murphy and Nebraska assistant Michael Lewis are the lead in-state recruiters for their respective schools and have built up a relationship with Sallis. Murphy’s son Preston also plays on Sallis’ OSA team.
“It’s close,” Sallis said about his relationship with the in-state schools. “I talk to Preston often; I see him all the time. I know my dad calls Coach [Tim] Miles and Coach Lewis all the time. It’s a good relationship with them.”
Sallis said he’s planning to play with the Crusaders once again this year. AAU tryouts are set for March 10 and the first live recruiting evaluation period is set for April 26-28.
But for the time being, Sallis still has some high high school ball left to play. Tipoff against the Warriors at Westside on Tuesday is set for 7 p.m.