Akol Arop has been verbally committed to Nebraska for a month-and-a-half, but on Wednesday the Omaha Creighton Prep senior put pen to paper and made it official on the first day of the early signing period.
“I just wanted to get it done with early,” Arop said. “I just wanted to be a Husker really bad. Coach [Tim] Miles called me up and told me ‘If you want to sign early, you should.’ ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ I couldn’t wait any longer I was just really excited.”
The 6-foot-5 swingman signed his letter of intent to be a Husker in front of a crowded room featuring teammates, friends, family and coaches in the Hall of Fame room on Creighton Prep’s campus Wednesday morning.
It’s official✔️ I’m a Husker🔴🌽 pic.twitter.com/hi0XJwiTtO
— Akol Arop (@akol_33) November 14, 2018
Arop received eight Division I offers, whittled it down to a few to visit officially then pulled the trigger to become a Husker. He said he enjoyed the recruiting process but is glad that it is over.
“It’s overwhelming,” Arop said. “I’m so happy. The experience was great this whole summer, talking to the coaches and going out to see all the different colleges was a great experience. It’s something that I recommend for people to go see because it took me a while to decide where I wanted to go and I felt like Nebraska was the right place for me … I wanted to stay close to home and being a part of the Husker family will be amazing. It’s a dream come true.”
Arop is the first player from the Omaha Metro to sign with the Huskers out of high school since Omaha Burke’s Jason Dourriseau and Roy Enright signed with the Huskers in 2002. Josh Luedtke, Prep’s head basketball coach and admissions director, said Wednesday was a special day for the basketball program and the community at Prep.
“It just shows that if you work hard and you have a goal and you trust people, good things can happen,” Luedtke said. “Akol’s done that. Akol’s trusted us, he’s worked hard, he’s had great support, he believes in Creighton Prep, he believes in his coaches and good things happened.”
Luedtke said Arop has come a long way since the day he first set foot on Prep’s campus, choosing a different path than his older brothers Makoor and Aguek who attended Omaha South.
“He’s come a long way, not just as a basketball player but as a young man,” Luedtke said. “He’s one of the finest young men we have here at Prep. Some people get it and some people don’t; he gets it. he’s the complete person. I’m very proud of Akol. He’s got a great support system. Coach [Andy] King and I, we’ve just been lucky to be a part of the ride.”
King is Luedtke’s lead assistant at Prep who also coached Arop during the spring and summer in 2017 and 2018 with the Omaha Sports Academy Crusaders.
Last march, Arop led a veteran-laden Junior Jays squad to the Class A title with a 26-1 record. However, that team featured four key seniors in addition to Jaylin Hunter, the son of former Nebraska assistant coach Kenya Hunter who moved to Connecticut when his father accepted an assistant coaching job with the Huskies.
“My goal this year is for sure to go back to the state championship with the whole new team we have,” Arop said. “We lost about seven seniors last year but we’ll have another good year this year. We have a great group of guys and hopefully we can win a championship.”
Senior guard Thomas Faber, who moved to Omaha from Des Moines last year and missed the state tournament with a broken wrist, has received a handful of Division II offers and will step forward into a featured role alongside Arop for an inexperienced team. Luedtke is going to ask a lot of his two returning stars, Arop in particular.
“Obviously we’re building around Akol,” Luedtke said. “Akol’s earned the right to have a little more freedom. He’s worked hard on improving both his inside and outside game. So we’ll give him a lot of freedom, we’ll run a lot of things through, him but he’s an ultimate team player. He trusts his teammates. We have a great supporting cast around him so he’s got to be Akol. He doesn’t have to be a 30-point-game a night guy but he’s just got to be a good leader, work hard on both ends of the floor and then score the ball.”
Arop said he knows signing with a school like Nebraska carries with it high expectations, and he said he’s going to work hard to live up to them.
“If I’m going to go to Nebraska, to a Big Ten team, I can’t be playing like I was playing my previous years at Prep and in this summer,” Arop said. “I’ve got to be able to show everyone what I can do. I can dribble, I can shoot, I can pass, all that.”
Individually, Arop’s hoping to continue to improve the consistency of his perimeter shooting and his ability to handle the ball, especially in ball-screen situations. He said Nebraska sees him as a three or a stretch-four.
“That’s what I feel I’m best at,” Arop said. “Obviously I’ll get bigger and stronger in the weight room this coming up summer. I’m just going to have to work a lot to be more physical.”
For now, though, Arop is focused on his current team and getting the Junior Jays ready for a great season. High school practices in Nebraska began on Monday.
Drop wasn’t the only future Husker who made it official on Wednesday, however. Miles’ other two pledges, junior college guard Jervay Green from Western Nebraska Community College and New Hampton School (New Hampshire) guard Mika Adams-Woods both signed their letters of intent on Wednesday afternoon as well.
— Chris Cottrell (@OffAirOnPoint) November 14, 2018
— Shoey (@_shoey3) November 14, 2018
Nebraska still has two 2019 scholarships to use. The regular signing period for basketball players begins on April 17, 2019.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.