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 an up and down one for the Nebraska recruits leading their high school basketball teams. Akol Arop had a great week but Donovan Williams, Hunter Sallis and Chucky Hepburn all experienced some rough stretches.
2019 Forward Akol Arop (Omaha Creighton Prep)
The Junior Jays rolled on last week, improving to 4-0 with a pair of 20-point wins on the road. Arop led the way with a double-double in each game.
On Friday, Prep beat Omaha North 68-47 behind a monster performance from the 6-foot-5 Arop. He put up 28 points on 11-of-19 from the field including 2-of-5 from deep and 4-of-7 from the free-throw line. He also grabbed 16 rebounds (six offensive), dished out one assist and blocked one shot, and he did all of that against a team that has some good size in the frontcourt.
He followed that up with 19 points on 6-of-13 shooting (0-of-1 from 3) and 7-of-9 from the line, 11 rebounds (five offensive), two steals, one turnover and three blocks in a 72-52 win at Omaha Burke.
Small sample size aside, four games in Arop’s free-throw percentage has jumped nearly 10 points from last season and he’s already made more 3-pointers than he did all of last season.
Creighton Prep only has one game this week as the Junior Jays will host Elkhorn South (led by Jace Piatkowski, the son of former and NBA player Husker Eric Piatkowski) on Saturday.
2020 Guard Donovan Williams (Lincoln North Star)
Last week was a rough one as the Navigators went 0-2 and Williams struggled to find his shooting touch while his supporting cast didn’t provide a whole lot of help.
On Thursday, North Star dropped a game at Lincoln High 75-65. Williams finished with 17 points on 3-of-16 shooting (2-of-9 from 3) and 9-of-13 from the free-throw line with five rebounds, one assist, two steals and two turnovers.
On Saturday, North Star lost a home game to Omaha South 46-41. Williams had 10 points on 3-of-15 shooting (1-of-7 from 3) and 3-of-4 from the foul line with six rebounds, one assist, one steal and three turnovers. Outside of Williams and Josiah Allick, the older brother of 2022 Nebraska volleyball commit Bekka Allick who had 19 points, the next highest-scoring Gator had six points.
North Star is now 1-3 on the season. William is attempting almost nine free throws per game, but he’s only 11-of-32 inside the arc and 6-of-29 from 3.
The Navigators will take on two Lincoln teams this week as they will play at Lincoln Pius X on Friday and will host Lincoln Southwest on Saturday.
2021 Wing Hunter Sallis (Millard North)
The Mustangs went 3-0 last week, though Sallis struggled a bit in the latter two.
On Tuesday, Millard North made the trip out to Norfolk to play a game that was postponed from Saturday. Millard North won 64-48 over the Panthers and the 6-foot-3 sophomore led the way with 18 points on 6-of-7 from the field and 6-of-8 from the line. He chipped in four rebounds, three assists, one steal and four turnovers.
On Thursday, the Mustangs hosted Elkhorn South and beat the Storm 60-52. Sallis did have 16 points but he only shot 7-of-17 from the field, missing his only 3-point attempt, and 2-of-2 from the line. He grabbed seven rebounds including five on the offensive end and blocked three shots but turned the ball over twice.
Here are some highlights from that game including several clips of Sallis (No. 5).
Highlights from tonight's win! pic.twitter.com/S3tbBhD9oL
— MNHS Activities (@MNHSActivities) December 8, 2018
No. 45, Jasen Green, is another player to keep an eye on down the road. He’s only a freshman.
Finally, Millard North won at Lincoln High 68-53 on Saturday but the Links held him to his lowest total of the season, eight points. Sallis shot 4-of-10 from the field and did not attempt a 3 or a free throw. He chipped in three rebounds, three assists, one steal and two turnovers.
One of the things that makes Sallis a special prospect is his ability to make tough in-between shots, but the flip side of that is when those shots don’t fall it can be tough to score efficiently. Sallis is a capable 3-point shooter, but he doesn’t look to take a lot of them and he can sometimes avid contact when attacking the rim, making it tough to get to the foul line.
The good news for Millard North is that senior forward Bret Porter, the team’s top returning scorer from last season, made his season debut after tearing his ACL in June.
Millard North will play at Omaha Central on Friday and will face Papillion-La Vista South at home on Saturday.
2021 Point Guard Chucky Hepburn (Bellevue West)
The Thunderbirds notched two blowout wins last week before collapsing on Saturday and surrendering a big lead to suffer their first loss of the season.
On Monday, Bellevue West took down Lincoln High 73-59 at the Thunder Dome after their meeting was postponed from Saturday. Hepburn had 19 points on 5-of-12 shooting (2-of-4 from 3) and 7-of-10 from the line with one rebounds, three assists, three steals and one turnover.
On Friday, the Thunderbirds blew out Omaha Benson 98-58 behind 28 points from Hepburn. He shot 12-of-19 from the field, 2-of-6 from deep and 2-of-2 at the line with three rebounds, six assists and five steals.
On Saturday, Bellevue West led by as much as 21 points at Lincoln Southeast but the Knights rallied back to win 64-57. Hepburn did his part, finishing with 23 points on 9-of-17 shooting (3-of-8 from 3) and 2-of-3 from the foul line with two rebounds, two assists, one steal, one block and three turnovers, but the rest of the Thunderbirds shot 14-of-43 from the field with 11 turnovers.
Bellevue West will look to bounce back with a pair of tough game this week. First, the T-Birds will play at Omaha Bryan on Friday before hosting Omaha Central on Saturday.
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.