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 featured 10 games and 10 wins for the four Nebraska recruits and one of them earned some big-time national recognition.
Let’s dive into the roundup.
2019 Forward Akol Arop (Omaha Creighton Prep)
On Tuesday, Prep’s offense was a little more balanced than normal with five players in double figures in a 59-50 win against Millard West. Arop led the way with 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting but only 1-of-6 from the free-throw line. He added 10 rebounds (three offensive), four blocks, one steal and one turnover.
On Saturday, the Juniors Jays faced Lincoln Pius X for the first time since the triple-overtime thriller in the first round of last year’s state tournament. This game turned out to be a classic as well with the Junior Jays pulling out the victory 63-62 thanks to junior Spencer Schomers’ layup with about 12 seconds to play.
Arop led the Junior Jays with 25 points on 12-of-16 shooting, hitting his only free-throw attempt, and he added 11 rebounds (two offensive), one steal, one block and five turnovers. Arop missed both of his 3-point attempts (one in each game), but he has extended his double-double streak to six.
Creighton Prep has a huge week coming up. First, the Junior Jays will get another crack at Bellevue West on Friday. The Thunderbirds handed Prep one of its three losses this season in the final of the Metro Holiday Tournament. Then, on Saturday, Prep will make the trip down to Kansas City to take on Rockhurst, its out-of-state rival.
2020 Guard Donovan Williams (Lincoln North Star)
North Star bounced back from the close loss to Creighton Prep with three wins last week thanks in part to senior forward Josiah Allick stepping up. Allick had 22 points in a 78-73 win over Lincoln East, 27 points and 17 rebounds in a 66-42 win against Papillion-La Vista and 15 points and 15 rebounds in a 68-39 win against Bellevue East.
Against the Spartans, a game that was twice postponed, Williams had 26 points on 6-of-22 from the field, 3-of-9 from 3 and 11-of-13 from the free-throw line with six rebounds (one offensive), six assists, two steals and three turnovers.
Against the Monarchs, Williams had 13 points on 5-of-12 from the field, 2-of-4 from 3 and 1-of-2 from the foul line with four rebounds (one offensive), three assists, four steals and four turnovers.
Against the Chieftains, Williams had 17 points on 5-of-14 shooting (3-of-8 from 3) and 4-of-4 from the charity stripe with three rebounds, five assists, three turnovers and a block.
Williams did a good job of making plays for others with 14 assists in the three games and he shot pretty well from 3 (8-of-21, 38.1 percent), but he still struggled to score inside the arc at just under 30 percent.
The Gators will look to extend their winning streak at home against Papillion-La Vista South on Tuesday. On Saturday, North Star will host Kearney.
2021 Point Guard Chucky Hepburn (Bellevue West)
The Thunderbirds continue to roll with Hepburn leading the way.
On Tuesday, Bellevue West beat Omaha North in the Thunderdome 76-48 behind 24 points from its sophomore floor general. He shot 6-of-10 from the field, 3-of-6 from 3 and 9-of-12 from the free-throw line with six rebounds, five assists, three steals and a very uncharacteristic nine turnovers.
He followed that up on Thursday with 14 points on 2-of-8 shooting (2-of-4 from 3) and 8-of-8 from the line with three rebounds, four assists, three steals and one turnover in a 76-48 win against Lincoln Southwest.
He closed out the week with 23 points on 6-of-10 shooting (2-of-5 from 3) and 9-of-12 from the foul line, five rebounds, seven assists, two steals, a block and five turnovers in an 84-74 win at Omaha Northwest on Saturday.
The one area in which Hepburn has struggled the most this season is his 3-point shooting, so a 7-for-15 week is a great sign, and that combined with the fact that he got to the free-throw line 32 times in three games allowed him to score 61 points on just 28 field goal attempts.
Next up for the Thunderbirds is the rematch with Creighton Prep on Friday, then on Saturday they’ll head west to take on Elkhorn South.
2021 Wing Hunter Sallis (Millard North)
After a rough stretch including five losses in six games, the Mustangs appear to have righted the ship a bit with four straight wins including two last week.
On Tuesday, Millard North blew out Papillion-La Vista 86-52. Sallis finished with nine points on 3-of-6 shooting (0-of-1 from 3) and 3-of-5 from the line with three rebounds, six assists and three steals. It was just his second single-digit game of the season, but Millard North didn’t need him to score much and he focused on getting his teammates involved with a new career-high in assists.
On Friday, Millard North beat Grand Island 73-59 behind Sallis’ 20 points on 4-of-7 from the field, 1-of-1 from deep and 11-of-13 from the free-throw line with four rebounds (two offensive), six assists, two steals and one turnover.
Sallis continues to score at an incredibly efficient rate and last week he showed off his playmaking with 12 assists and one turnover.
Rivals released its updated top-75 for the 2021 class including Sallis at No. 50, making him a 4-star prospect and true national recruit.
On Thursday, Millard North will play at Lincoln Northeast, then on Friday, the Mustangs will host Omaha Northwest.
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.