Area basketball fans can get their summer hoops fix starting on Thursday this week with the return of the Metro Pro-Am Summer League, and this year, there’s a little Husker flavor.
Scholarship freshman Akol Arop as well as walk-on freshmen Jace Piatkowski, Charlie Easley and Bret Porter will all compete in the league this season. For years, the Huskers chose not to participate in the league even though players from the other two Division I schools in the state (both conveniently located in Omaha) did, but former Husker Brady Heiman changed that last season.
Nebraska’s incoming freshman class of in-state players are following in Heiman’s footsteps and will compete against a collection of players with ties to the area, whether they’re from the state, they played their college ball here or they’re still in school. In the past, former Huskers like Jason Dourrisseau, Wes Wilkinson, Ryan Anderson and Steffon Bradford among others have competed in the league.
The Omaha Mavericks will only have local players in the league this season, just like Nebraska. Creighton has chosen not to play this summer, but there is still plenty of talent left in the league.
NCAA rules for this kind of summer league prevent more than two players from the same Division I school to play on the same team, so two of the Huskers will pair up on one team while the other two will play for separate squads.
Arop will play for RBC Wealth-Ferrarini. The 6-foot-6, 190-pound forward from Omaha Creighton Prep committed to Tim Miles then reaffirmed his commitment to Nebraska after meeting with Fred Hoiberg, Matt Abdelmassih and Armon Gates shortly after Hoiberg was announced as Nebraska’s new head coach. He averaged 19.4 points, 10.9 rebounds and 2.6 blocks as a senior while shooting 62% from the field, 26.5% from 3 and 66.2% from the free-throw line. He led the Junior Jays to three state tournaments including one state title during his three-year varsity career at Creighton Prep.
Arop will play alongside Andy King, Nick Ferrarini, Tyrell Carroll, Jordan Janssen, Nate Mohr, Nate Thayer, Jayden Temme and Kendall Jacks. King is a Creighton Prep graduate who played his college ball at Samford. He coached Arop both as an assistant at Prep and as the head coach of Arop’s OSA team. Temme graduated from Prep last year and is heading into his sophomore season at Benedictine. Ferrarini (Millard North), Janssen (Lincoln East), Thayer (Platteview) and Mohr (Glenwood, Iowa) are heading into their sophomore year at Wayne State while Jack just graduated from there. Carroll, who graduated from Millard South, is coming of a terrific freshman season at Missouri Western State.
Easley will play for Drexel Mechanical. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound combo-guard from Lincoln Pius X, capped a terrific senior season by leading the Thunderbolts to the Class B state title. He averaged 23.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 3.1 steals while shooting 51.5% from the field, 45.3% from 3 and 86.5% from the foul line. Easley scored over 1,400 points in three years as a varsity player at Pius.
Easley’s teammates will be Mitch Moran, Jesse Cardenas, Bob Drexel, Nick Billingsley, Jonathan Assa, Chase Thompson and Lök Wur. Thompson (Omaha Westside) and Wur (Papillion-La Vista South) just graduated from high school and have played with Easley for the OSA Crusaders (Thompson for two years, Wur for one).
Piatkowski and Porter will compete with Century 21-Olsen.
Piatkowski, a 6-foot-4, 175-pound guard from Elkhorn South, is the son of Husker legend Eric Piatkowski. He averaged 18.4 points and 3.3 rebounds while shooting 41.8% from the field, 30.3% from 3 and 76.7% from the free-throw line. As a junior, while playing as the second option behind former Husker walk-on guard Justin Costello, Piatkowski put up 14 points per game and shot 39.1% from 3 which is more of an indicator of what kind of shooter he really is.
Porter is the latest player to say yes to Hoiberg, carrying on his family legacy by continuing his athletic career at Nebraska following in the footsteps of his dad, uncle, grandpa and great-grandpa who were all football players. Porter managed to return from a torn ACL suffered last June in just four-and-a-half months, missing just two games at the start of his senior season. Porter averaged better than 10 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists in his sophomore and junior seasons while he was fully healthy. As a senior post-injury, he chipped in 6.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.
They will play with Bart Hiscock, Shane Chamberlain, Ronnie Boyce, Ja-Wuan Moore, Ben Walstrum and Andrue Aguilera. Hiscock had a prolific career at Bennington while Chamberlain is from Harlan, Iowa, and both are currently Hastings Broncos.
Dourrisseau is also on the Going Vertical roster while Bradford will play for Winning Mentality alongside one-time Husker Deverell Biggs. Heiman, now at South Dakota, will also play in the league again with ATI Physical Therapy.
Pool play will take place on Thursday, Monday and next Thursday with each team playing two games per night. Games will take place at the Iowa West Fieldhouse with games slotted for 6, 6:50 and 7:40 p.m. Bracket play will begin on July 1 with teams seeded according to results from pool play. The full schedule can be found here.
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.