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).
Some inclement weather on Friday wiped out nearly an entire slate of games state-wide, including ones for three of the Nebraska recruits, but all four still managed to get at least one game in this week. It went well for two of our highlighted players and not so much for the other two.
2019 Forward Akol Arop (Omaha Creighton Prep)
Last week was a rough one for Creighton Prep as the Junior Jays lost two games against two of the better teams in Class A and had a third postponed.
On Tuesday, Prep lost to its arch rival Omaha Westside 59-55. Arop finished with 17 points on 7-of-16 shooting (0-of-1 from 3) and 3-of-5 from the free-throw line, eight rebounds (four on each end), three blocks and three turnovers. I wrote more about that game last Wednesday.
Creighton Prep’s Friday game against Millard North was postponed to Monday because of the ice and snow. Fortunately, the weather wasn’t as bad as initially projected and all of Saturday’s games were able to go on as scheduled.
That includes Prep’s rematch with Omaha Central, its other main rival. The Junior Jays clipped the Eagles 64-40 in the Metro Holiday Tournament semifinals. However, Central got its revenge on Saturday.
The Eagles won round two 63-51 on Prep’s home court. Arop finished with 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting (0-of-2 from 3) and 5-of-6 from the foul line with 10 rebounds (five offensive), three blocks and a turnover. I wrote about that game too.
Arop has now scored 17 or less in his last five games after cracking 20 in eight of his first 10. He also hasn’t made a 3-pointer since Jan. 1, missing his last eight attempts. Team are starting to figure Prep out and are loading up the box, so to speak, to keep Arop in check. Through Prep’s first nine games, the Junior Jays were shooting a hair under 40 percent from 3. Over the last six (which includes ll three of its losses), Prep is shooting 23.4 percent. It’s going to be tough for Arop to find room to work in the paint if team’s don’t have to guard the perimeter.
Prep has three more games next week including the Millard North game on Monday. On Friday, the Junior Jays will host Omaha Northwest. On Saturday, the two Nebraska commits in the state face off as Prep goes to Lincoln North Star.
2020 Guard Donovan Williams (Lincoln North Star)
Speaking of North Star, the Navigators avenged their HAC Tournament play-in round loss to Grand Island on Tuesday, taking down the Islanders 62-44. As of the time this was published, the box score from that game was not available online. We will update when it is.
Unfortunately, North Star’s second game — against Lincoln East — was postponed to Tuesday.
On Friday, the Navigators will travel to Omaha to take on Millard South, and on Saturday North Star has its showdown with Creighton Prep at North Star.
2021 Point Guard Chucky Hepburn (Bellevue West)
Bellevue West’s first game, against Omaha North, was suppose to happen on Friday, but it got postponed to Jan. 29 because of the weather.
On Saturday, the Thunderbirds took down Omaha South 71-56 on South’s home court. Against an athletic Packers backcourt, Hepburn put up 22 points on 7-of-13 from the field, 1-of-4 from 3 and 7-of-8 from the free-throw line with seven rebounds, three assists, one steal and four turnovers. The game was Hepburn’s seventh 20-point performance of the season and first since he put up 24 points on Jan. 2 against Bryan in the Metro Tournament quarterfinals.
Bellevue West has two games this week. On Friday, the T-Birds will play at Omaha Burke and on Saturday, they’ll host Lincoln Northeast.
2021 Wing Hunter Sallis (Millard North)
Millard North lost again on Thursday, marking the Mustangs’ fourth loss in their past five games.
Omaha Burke beat Millard North 55-50 on Thursday. North’s first three losses were understandable as they came at the hands of three of the best teams in the state in Omaha Central, Lincoln Pius X and Bellevue West, but the latest one is a bit tougher as the Bulldogs are 6-8 on the season.
Millard North may have lost, but Sallis did all he could with a game-high 25 points on 10-of-19 from the field (0-of-4 from 3) and 5-of-6 from the free-throw line with five rebounds, two assists, three steals and just two turnovers.
Junior forward Max Murrell added 12 points, which is right around his season average. However, the rest of the Mustangs combined to shoot 5-of-21 from the field for 13 points. Sallis and Murrell need some help.
On Monday, Millard North will make up the game against Creighton Prep that was postponed from last Friday. On Friday, the Mustangs will take on Bellevue East and then they’ll wrap up the week at Omaha Bryan 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.