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).
We’ve reached the mid-way point of the high school basketball season, with teams across the state nearing full strength after players who were ineligible either because of transfer rules or grades join the lineups for their teams. Creighton Prep added some depth behind Akol Arop in sophomore forward AJ Rollins while Millard North got some backcourt depth in the form of sophomore point guard Adam Parra. Let’s take a look at how the Husker commits and targets fared last week.
2019 Forward Akol Arop (Omaha Creighton Prep)
It was going to be tough for Arop to keep up what he had done over the last couple of weeks, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to see him take a bit of a step back in last week’s games. Even playing less than his best, Arop did enough to get the Junior Jays two wins.
On Friday, Creighton prep survived against Omaha South in double overtime, winning 68-62. Arop finished with 16 points on 4-of-11 shooting (0-of-1 from 3) and 8-of-6 from the free-throw line with nine rebounds (three offensive) and three turnovers. After South hit a 3 at the buzzer to send it to the second overtime, Arop scored Prep’s first four points and the Junior Jays shot 4-of-6 from he foul line the rest of the way to win the period 8-2 and claim the victory despite shooting 6-of-22 from deep for the game.
Arop followed that up with another 16-point game in a 74-60 win at Lincoln Southeast on Saturday. He shot 8-of-15 from the field, missing all three of his 3s and failing to get to the free-throw line for the first time all season. He grabbed nine rebounds (three offensive) dished out one assists, recorded three steals and four blocks and turned the ball over one time. Prep’s offense was fairly well-balanced with four players in double figures scoring.
Creighton Prep has a loaded week coming up with three tough match-ups. First, the Junior Jays play at Omaha Westside on Tuesday, then they host Millard North on Friday and they wrap the week up with a home game against Omaha Central on Saturday. I’m planning to be at at least one if not two of those games.
2020 Guard Donovan Williams (Lincoln North Star)
Lincoln North Star split its games last week, but Williams did about all he could with 62 points in two games.
In a 71-50 win at Lincoln Southeast on Tuesday, Williams put up 30 points (besting his 29 from his first meeting with the Knights) on 11-of-21 from the field, 4-of-8 from 3 and 4-of-6 from the line with five rebounds, one assists, one steal and two turnovers.
He followed that up with 32 points, a new season-high and the third-highest scoring game of his career (he had games of 33 and 43 as a sophomore) in a 61-56 loss at Norfolk. Williams shot 12-of-24 from the field including 6-of-15 from 3 and 2-of-3 from the free-throw line and notched two boards, one assist, one steals and three turnovers.
Williams has now shot 40 percent or better from 3 in each of his last six games (with the first five at or above 50 percent) with at least three makes in every game. In total, he’s shot 30-of-58 (51.7 percent) during that span and is at 39.4 percent for the year.
North Star has two road games on tap this week, one at Grand Island on Tuesday and one at Lincoln East on Friday.
2021 Point Guard Chucky Hepburn (Bellevue West)
Hepburn played through an illness throughout the Metro Holiday Tournament, but it finally caught up to him last week and he had to sit out Bellevue West’s 53-48 win at Millard North on Tuesday.
Hepburn returned to the court on Friday and struggled a bit getting his legs back, finishing with 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting including 1-of-5 from deep and just 2-of-6 from the free-throw line in a 76-43 win at rival Bellevue East. He also grabbed nine rebounds including three on the offensive end and dished out two assists to one turnover.
He looked little more like himself on Saturday as he led the Thunderbirds to a 55-46 win over Council Bluffs Lewis Central in the Jennie Ed MAC Shootout at the Mid-America Center. Hepburn finished with 18 points on 7-of-11 from the field, 1-of-3 from deep and 3-of-7 from the line with five rebounds, three assists, six steals and two turnovers.
Hepburn has now grabbed five or more steals in six of his 14 games so far this season, showing off his quick feet, quick hands and ability to anticipate what ball-handlers are going to do.
Bellevue West is off until Friday when the T-Birds hots Omaha North. They follow that up with a game at Omaha South on Saturday.
2021 Wing Hunter Sallis (Millard North)
The showdown between Sallis and Hepburn unfortunately did not materialize on Tuesday as an illness kept Hepburn out as mentioned above, but Sallis at least was able to play. He finished with 14 points on 7-of-15 shooting (0-of-2 from deep) and 0-of-1 from the free-throw line with one rebound, one assist, one block and four turnovers (though I had him down for six giveaways, personally). He had a great second quarter, showing off a special ability to get to the rim and finish with his length and athleticism as he hit four of his five shots for eight points, but he made just one shot in each of the other three quarters.
He bounced back on Saturday as the Mustangs ran over Millard South 55-36. Sallis did the heavy lifting, finishing with 20 points on 9-of-14 from the field, 1-of-3 from 3 and 1-of-1 from the line with four rebounds, two assists and just one turnover. Junior big man Max Murrell added 14 points and no other Mustangs scored more than six.
Next up for Millard North is a game against Omaha Burke at home on Thursday, then the Mustangs will face the Junior Jays at the Heider Center on Friday.