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 clean sweep as all four teams rode a win into the moratorium, the mandatory five-day break from practice and games that began on Saturday.
2019 Forward Akol Arop (Omaha Creighton Prep)
The Junior Jays only had one game last week, but Arop made sure it was a memorable one. He was a perfect 12-for-12 from the field with two 3-pointers en route to a career-high 35 points in a 74-65 win at Omaha Benson on Friday. He shot 9-of-11 from the free-throw line as well, which is a great sign — it’s the most makes and the second-most attempts of his career.
Arop also grabbed 12 rebounds including four offensive for his fifth double-double of the season. Arop chipped in four blocks and one steal for good measure, though he did turn the ball over four times as well.
The Junior Jays are the last undefeated team in Class A at 6-0 and are the top seed in the Metro Holiday Tournament. Prep will play the winner of Thursday’s play-in game between Benson and Omaha Northwest on Saturday at 8:30 a.m. at Ralston Arena.
2020 Guard Donovan Williams (Lincoln North Star)
The Navigators took down an over-matched North Platte squad 82-52 on Thursday to notch their third win of the season and first against a team not named Lincoln Northeast. Unfortunately, North Star has not posted the box score from that game yet so I do not have a stat line for Williams this week.
However, he did tweet this on Sunday.
The Navigators will open Heartland Athletic Conference play against Grand Island on Thursday.
2021 Point Guard Chucky Hepburn (Bellevue West)
Hepburn didn’t have a great night on Thursday, but the Thunderbirds didn’t need him to in an 84-53 win against Papillion-La Vista. Hepburn finished with nine points on 2-of-10 shooting (1-of-3 from 3) and 4-of-5 from the free-throw line with five assists, four rebounds, three steals, two blocks and one turnover.
He bounced back on Friday in an 83-66 win against Omaha Westside with 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting (1-of-3 from deep) and 4-of-5 from the line with five boards, nine assists, two steals and one turnover. For more on that game, read my five thoughts.
And here are some highlights.
Chucky also released his highlights from the first part of the season on Monday. Here’s 11 minutes of goodness.
At 7-1, the T-Birds are the No. 2 seed in the Metro Holiday Tournament and will play Papillion-La Vista again at 8:45 p.m. on Saturday.
2021 Wing Hunter Sallis (Millard North)
Sallis put together another strong game to lead the Mustangs to victory on Saturday. North won the Millard showdown against West at Millard West on Saturday, 56-44, behind Sallis’ 21 points, a new career high.
The 6-foot-3 sophomore shot 9-of-12 from the field and 2-of-4 from deep. It’s the first time he’s made more than one 3-pointer in a game and the first time he’s attempted more than three. It’s a great sign that Sallis doesn’t settle for a lot of long jumpers, but he’s now 5-of-12 on the season (42 percent) and can probably stand to take a few more at that rate.
Sallis also split a pair of free throws, grabbed five rebounds, dished out a career-high four assists and nabbed two steals, though his turnover struggles continued with four more giveaways.
Millard North is 5-2 on the year and the No. 5 seed in the Metro Tournament. The Mustangs will face Omaha North at noon on Saturday.
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.