Nebraska basketball fans have more reason than ever to pay attention to high school basketball in the state this year, so each week Hail Varsity will be looking back at the performances by 2019 commit Akol Arop (Omaha Creighton Prep), 2020 commit Donovan Williams (Lincoln North Star) and 2021 targets Hunter Sallis (Millard North) and Chucky Hepburn (Bellevue West).
Thanks to the Metro Holiday Tournament, last week was packed with games for the Nebraska recruits. Let’s dive into the roundup.
2019 Forward Akol Arop (Omaha Creighton Prep)
Arop had a dominant week, as I wrote about in my recap of the Metro Holiday Tournament. The Junior Jays fell in the championship game to Bellevue West despite Arop’s best efforts. He scored more than 20 points in all three tournament games (wins over Omaha South and Omaha Central) last week and totaled 40 rebounds in the three games as well while hitting 30 of his 41 shots from the field and 11 of his 13 free throws.
Arop's stats: 23.5 ppg, 75.5% FG, 72.2% FT, 10.3 rpg (3.8 orpg), 3.8 bpg. pic.twitter.com/99s32fOFUs
— Jacob Padilla (@JacobPadilla_) January 5, 2019
Creighton Prep bounced back from the loss in the Metro final with a 66-49 win over Millard South on Saturday. Arop had 17 points on 7-of-9 from the field and 3-of-5 from the line with 12 boards and a block.
The Junior Jays will return to action at home against Omaha South on Friday.
2020 Guard Donovan Williams (Lincoln North Star)
I mentioned last week how North Star’s stats hadn’t been updated because the Hudl team was on vacation, but they’re back so I’ll back track a bit here.
The Navigators fell to Grand Island in the play-in round of the HAC Tournament 48-43 on Dec. 29. Williams had 16 points on 5-of-13 from the field (3-of-6 from 3) and 3-of-6 from the foul line with four boards, two assists, two steals and four turnovers.
Like I wrote in last week’s roundup, Williams went off in North Star’s HAC consolation game for 29 points. He shot 11-of-20 from the field including 7-of-13 from 3 (tying the school record for made 3s in a game) and 2-of-3 from the charity stripe with four rebounds, four assists and one turnover in a 91-57 win against Lincoln Southeast.
He wrapped up the week with a 35-point game in a 74-44 win against Lincoln Northeast on Saturday, shooting 8-of-16 from the field, 5-of-8 from 3 and 4-of-5 from the line. He chipped in four boards, three helpers and two steals.
— Kevin Sjuts (@kevinsjuts) January 6, 2019
After a rough start to the season from the 3-point line, Williams has shot 20-of-35 from deep in his last four games. None of those games have been against teams with a winning record, but it’s still a great sign. He’s now shooting 38 percent from deep overall.
North Star (5-5) has two games this week, a rematch with Lincoln Southeast at Southeast on Tuesday and a trip out to Norfolk on Friday to take on the Panthers.
2021 Point Guard Chucky Hepburn (Bellevue West)
Like I mentioned above, Hepburn led the Thunderbirds to the Metro Holiday Tournament Title and I named him tournament MVP (along with Arop).
Hepburn had his best game in the quarterfinal round against a good Omaha Bryan teams with 24 points on 6-of-11 from the field and 11-of-14 from the free-throw line with eight assists, seven rebounds, a steal and just one turnover.
He struggled mightily to get shots to fall in the semifinals and finals — shooting 9-of-29 from the field including 3-of-12 from deep. Even so, he shot 9-of-10 from the foul line, grabbed 13 rebounds, dished out 14 assists and nabbed seven steals, finding a way to control games without hitting jumpers. And when Bellevue West needed him most in the championship game, he scored the team’s final 12 points to seal the victory.
Highlights from 2021 Bellevue West Point guard @chucky_hepburn in the Metro Holiday Tournament. Hepburn led the T-Birds to the title (4-0).
— Jacob Padilla (@JacobPadilla_) January 5, 2019
Bellevue West is back at it on Tuesday, and it’s a big one as Hepburn will face off against fellow 2021 Nebraska target Hunter Sallis and Millard North. That’s just the beginning of a busy week for Bellevue West, however, as the Thunderbirds will also play at Bellevue East on Friday and then will take on Council Bluffs Lewis Central on Saturday in the Jennie Ed Mac Shootout at the Mid-America Center.
2021 Wing Hunter Sallis (Millard North)
Sallis’ Mustangs bowed out of the Metro Tournament in the quarterfinals after getting blitzed by an Omaha Central team that nailed 16 3-pointers.
Sallis got off to a slow start but bounced back with a strong second half, scoring 12 of his team-high 16. He shot 5-of-10 from the field, nailing both of his 3-pointers, and knocked down four of his five free throws. He grabbed five rebounds (three on the offensive end) and dished out five assists with three turnovers in the 99-70 loss.
Unfortunately, things didn’t get much better for the Mustangs on Saturday when Millard North dropped a 76-65 game at Lincoln Pius X on Saturday evening. I attended that game and offered five thoughts on what went down, including one on Nebraska football walk-on commit Austin Jablonski for Pius. Sallis finished with 22 points on 9-of-12 from the field and 4-of-7 from the foul line with three rebounds, one assist, one steal and six turnovers.
After hosting the Thunderbirds on Tuesday, Millard North will take on Millard South on Saturday.
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.