Nebraska High School Football Player AJ Rollins
Photo Credit: Greg Smith

5 Thoughts on Grand Island at Omaha Creighton Prep

February 09, 2020

The last time I attended a game at the Heider Center — just last week — Omaha Creighton Prep took down Omaha Central on a buzzer-beater. On Saturday, Grand Island turned the tables on the Junior Jays with a buzzer-beater of their own in a 57-54 overtime victory.

Here are five thoughts on the game.

Isaac Traudt is the Real Deal

Nebraska has already offered Millard North’s Jasen Green in the 2022 class, but he’s not the only one the Huskers will want to keep an eye on. Grand Island sophomore Isaac Traudt looks every bit the part of a future Division I basketball player.

Traudt has a slender frame but he’s already listed at 6-foot-8 and he just turned 16 back in December. As he showed on Saturday, he’s got the ability to hit jumpers from everywhere on the floor and Grand Island is having him bring the ball up the floor and initiate offense as well.

Traudt finished with a game-high 33 points on 9-of-20 from the field, 6-of-10 from 3 and 9-of-9 from the free-throw line with eight rebounds. He can shoot off the dribble as well as off the catch, and at his eight he can get his shot off almost any time he wants.

Oh, and he was the one who hit the game-winner.

Saturday was Traudt’s third 30-point game of the season and he’s scored in double figure in 16 of Grand Island’s 18 games. He’s averaging 18.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists and shooting 40% from 3 this season.

Traudt can settle at times, and he took a lot of tough shots on Saturday that won’t always fall at the same rate, but he definitely has the ability to hit them and as he continues to develop his offensive game should only expand even further.

AJ Rollins is a Force

I’ve highlighted AJ Rollins every time I’ve covered a Prep game and that’s because he’s been the team’s best player in nearly every one of them. The Junior Jays struggled offensively as a team on Saturday, but Rollins did his part.

The 6-foot-6 junior finished with 18 points on 7-of-10 from the field and 4-of-6 from the line, eight rebounds, two steals and two blocks. Rollins has a unique offensive game. I wouldn’t say he’s got a wide array of moves or diverse foot work in the post, but he’s physical enough to carve out space and has a really soft touch that allows him to finish over the top of his defender.

He’s strong and bouncy, and when watching him play basketball it’s not hard to see why Nebraska’s football coaches liked him enough to offer him.

Shifting Defenses

Early in the game, Grand Island played through its 6-foot-6 senior post, Them Koang. He scored the first six points of the game before picking up two early fouls. After that, the Islanders had to get creative to get by. Coach Jeremiah Slough only went seven deep and Traudt and Koang are the only ones taller than 6-foot-2. So to help limit Rollins’ touches on the block while Koang was out and to limit his opportunity to pick up more fouls while he was out there, Grand Island switched to a 2-3 zone at different points throughout the game.

It wasn’t standard lazy 2-3, however, The Islanders were active in it, extending it against ball-handlers and contracting against paint touches, constantly shifting. The zone is a big part of why Grand Island was able to build up a couple of nine-point leads in the second quarter. It took a while for Prep to figure out how to score against the zone, and then when they needed to hold up in man-to-man they did that too. The Islanders held Prep to 10 points below its season average despite playing an extra four minutes.

Where’s the Help?

Rollins finished with 18 and nobody else for Prep scored more than seven. Had the junior Jays been able to get any one of its other scoring threats going the Junior Jays probably pull away and win in regulation, but it didn’t happen.

Senior guard John Trainer checked in during the second quarter and gave Prep a spark, hitting all three of his shots including a 3-pointer just before the buzzer for seven points to lead all Junior Jays in scoring at the halftime break.

The other six Junior Jays combined to score 29 points on 11-of-32 shooting. Last week’s hero, Spencer Schomers, didn’t score in the final three quarters or overtime. Sophomore Luke Jungers, who led the Junior Jays in scoring in that Central game, didn’t score after halftime.

Prep can’t afford for nearly everyone on the team to have an off day in the same game moving forward.

Multi-Sport Athletes

Traudt, Koang and senior guard Jayden Byabato handle most of the scoring for Grand Island, and that was the case on Saturday as well (although Byabato wasn’t at his best). The other four guys who make up the main rotation play an important role too, however, and they’re all multi-sport athletes.

Nebraska football walk-on commit Broc Douglass, Caleb Francl and Blake Leiting are all standouts from the football team while Jay Gustafson is a standout baseball player. That quartet combined for 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting on Saturday, but that was enough to get the win with the way they defended and scrapped on the glass.

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