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).
Last week was a pretty successful one for the four Nebraska recruits as the only losses came in match-ups against each other (or more specifically, against Creighton Prep and Akol Arop).
2019 Forward Akol Arop (Omaha Creighton Prep)
After a sub-par stretch (by his standards) Arop bounced back in a big way with three double-doubles and three wins last week.
On Monday, he put up 25 points on 11-of-17 shooting (0-of-2 from 3) and 3-of-6 from the foul line with 14 rebounds (four offensive), three blocks and a steal with two turnovers in a 47-45 win against Millard North on Monday. The Junior Jays held a 37-30 lead after three before a furious Mustang rally, but Prep managed to hold on for the win despite no one besides Arop scoring more than seven points.
On Friday, Arop had 18 points on 5-of-9 from the field, 1-of-3 from 3 and 7-of-11 from the free-throw line, 11 rebounds (three offensive), food blocks and an assist in a 78-31 win against Omaha Northwest. Plenty of Junior Jays got a chance to play and five of them scored double digits. It was good to see that Arop finally got a 3-pointer to fall after going seven games without making one.
He closed out the week with a 30-point performance in his showdown with fellow Nebraska commit Donovan Williams and Lincoln North Star on Saturday. Arop shot 12-of-19 from the field (0-of-3 from 3) and 6-of-8 from the free-throw line with three assists, three blocks, two steals and three turnovers. Prep has him credited with 12 rebounds (three offensive), though I’m not sure how as I had him for eight total including four on the offensive end. Regardless, I wrote plenty about this game here and here.
Prep has two more games this week. First on Tuesday, the Junior Jays will host Millard West. On Saturday, Creighton Prep has another big game as the Junior Jays hit the road to take on Lincoln Pius X. The last time those teams faced off, it took Prep three overtimes to take down the Thunderbolts in the first round of the state tournament.
2020 Guard Donovan Williams (Lincoln North Star)
For the second time, North Star’s game with Lincoln East was postponed by poor weather; it got pushed back another week to this Tuesday.
After shooting 40 percent or better from 3 in six straight games, Williams has hit another cold spell. In the previous week’s win over Grand Island, he failed to reach double digits for the first time all season with eight points on 2-of-15 shooting including 1-of-8 from 3.
In Friday’s 60-31 blowout win at Millard South, Williams totaled 13 points on 4-of-18 shooting including 1-of-10 from deep. He was 4-of-4 from the free-throw line and grabbed five rebounds and three steals while turning the ball over twice.
On Saturday, he went off for a season-high 36 points and secured his second double-double of the year with 11 rebounds according to North Star’s stats (though I had 12). But he shot just 10-of-27 overall and 4-of-12 from 3 and he turned the ball over five times. He did set new season-highs at the free-throw line line with 14 attempts and 12 makes.
North Star has a chance to build up some momentum this week with a couple of games against teams in the bottom six of the Class A standings. On Friday, the Gators will host Papillion-La Vista and on Saturday, they’ll welcome Bellevue East to the Swamp.
2021 Point Guard Chucky Hepburn (Bellevue West)
Last week, Hepburn shared a highlight video from the first part of the season. Enjoy.
Hepburn had another rough scoring week, but as he usually does he found other ways to make a big impact.
On Friday, Bellevue West turned a somewhat competitive game at Omaha Burke into a blowout with a dominant fourth quarter that culminated in a 62-43 win. Hepburn only scored seven points on 3-of-11 shooting (0-of-4 from 3) and 1-of-2 from the line but he also dished out eight assists to just one turnover and got a steal as well.
He followed that up with a 13-point performance on 6-of-12 shooting (1-of-4 from 3) and 0-of-2 from the charity stripe with five rebounds (four of them offensive), six assists, six steals and just one turnover again in a 65-30 home win against Lincoln Northeast.
On Tuesday, the Thunderbirds will take on Lincoln Southwest (which includes a pair of Nebraska football walk-on commits in Caden McCormack and Nick Leader) and on Saturday, they’ll play at Omaha Northwest.
2021 Hunter Sallis (Millard North)
Sallis had another big week for the Mustangs, continuing to score in an efficient fashion.
Millard North may have lost at Creighton Prep on Monday, but there’s no shame in that and Sallis was the biggest reason they managed to make a comeback. The sophomore finished with 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting (1-of-2 from 3) and 2-of-5 from the line, six rebounds, two assists, on steal and four turnovers. He was the only Mustang who scored more than eight points.
North bounced back with a 76-49 win against Bellevue East on Friday ad Sallis put up 23 points on 8-of-11 from the field (2-of-2 from 3) and 5-of-6 from the line with two rebounds, two assists, one steal and one turnover.
Millard North closed out the week with a really good win over Omaha Bryan, taking down the Bears 65-55 at Bryan on Saturday. Sallis had 22 points on 7-of-15 from the field, 1-of-2 from 3 and 7-of-7 from the free-throw line, four rebounds, one assists, two steals and one turnover.
He has now finished with two or less turnovers in four of his last five games (the lone exception being the Creighton Prep game as mentioned above), which is a great sign as that has been his biggest weakness so far this season.
On Tuesday, Millard North will take on Papillion-La Vista. On Friday, the Mustangs will host Grand Island.
Jacob Padilla has been writing for Hail Varsity since 2015. He covers football, volleyball men’s basketball and prep sports. He also co-hosts the Nebraska Preps Postgame and Nebraska Shootaround podcasts for the Hurrdat Media and Hail Varsity podcast networks. 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.