It was probably appropriate that Tony Quattrocchi picked up the phone where he did.

The Lincoln North Star boys basketball coach was in Chicago after a long day of hoops at at the Chicagoland Showcase, an NCAA-certified event for high school teams in the Midwest that had dozens of Division I coaches in attendance.

Who knows how many of those coaches watched the Navigators? They were without senior Super-Stater and Nebraska commit Donovan Williams, who is at home recovering from a torn ACL, but this was a team coming off an appearance in the Class A state semifinals and with enough returning talent around Williams to make another run next season.

The Gators perhaps were also buoyed by Nebraska's growing reputation for producing Division I basketball talent.

While time will tell if the top-end talent currently coming through the Nebraska prep ranks will match that of, say, 1991, when players such as Erick Strickland (Bellevue West), Terrance Badgett (Omaha South), Jason Glock (Wahoo), Andre Woolridge (Omaha Benson) were setting Nebraska gyms on fire. But the depth of quality players is as good as it's been in years.

"It's a combination of factors. I think it's been a good cycle of kids," Quattrocchi said. "I think the kids kind of compete with one another to try and keep improving and getting better because they see how a friend of theirs at another school is being recruited, and they want to be at that level, too.

"And give a lot of credit to the high school coaches in Nebraska. Up in Omaha, here in Lincoln with the Division I players coming through our programs. I think there's a lot of time and effort put into coaching these kids year-round in the offseason with the things we do. They do a really good job."

Iron sharpens iron, as the old saying goes. 

Just in the 2019 class, at least seven Nebraska players signed to play Division I ball outside of the power conferences. North Star's own Josiah Allick is heading to Missouri-Kansas City, Omaha Central's John Tonje is at Colorado State, York's Brady Danielson to North Dakota, Kearney's Shiloh Robinson to Liberty, Aurora's Baylor Scheierman to South Dakota and Seward's Nate Lliteras to Longwood.

The latest addition to that group was Papillion-La Vista South's Lök Wur, who signed with Oregon last week. Wur was set to attend Eastern Florida State, a junior college school, before he became an NCAA academic qualifier and saw his recruitment blast into the stratosphere with offers from the Ducks, Iowa, Rutgers, Texas A&M, Washington State, Creighton and Kansas State.

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"I know our players, they know so much about each other from social media; they’re very aware of all the players in the state, the high-profile players," Quattrocchi said. "I think it kind of raises the level of the game when you go up against a team that has a Division I player. I think that brings out the best in high school basketball."

It looks like there's even more star power coming. Williams, of course, headlines the 2020 class. When Williams signs, it is believed he will be the first Lincoln native to be on scholarship with the Husker basketball team since Lincoln Southeast's Jake Muhleisen was at NU from 2001-02 to 2004-05.

Then add in Omaha Westside's Jadin Booth, who has already committed to Omaha. Millard North's Max Murrell, after a breakout spring, has six high-major offers: Creighton, Iowa, Kansas State, Minnesota, TCU and Virginia Tech.

In the 2021 class, Bellevue West's Chucky Hepburn will battle Millard North's Hunter Sallis for headlining honors. Another Mustang, sophomore Jasen Green, recently picked up an offer from the Huskers.

Nebraska, which went nearly 20 years without signing an in-state player to a scholarship out of high school, now has Creighton Prep's Akol Arop on campus, Williams coming next season, and offers to Hepburn, Sallis and Green.

It all adds up to what should be an entertaining next couple of winters on the hardwood, to say the least. 

"It will be interesting to see what plays out next season," Quattrocchi said. "I think it could be a very exciting season to see these kids, because all these teams play each other.

"It's exciting," he added, "for everyone involved."

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7436 or cbasnett@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraCB.


Husker basketball reporter

A Ravenna native, Chris covers the University of Nebraska men's basketball team and assists with football coverage. He spent nearly 10 years covering sports at the Kearney Hub and nearly four years at the Springfield News-Leader in Springfield, Mo.

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