RALSTON — It took about 13 seconds into Creighton Prep’s Metro Conference quarterfinal boys basketball game Wednesday at Ralston Arena to get a glimpse of what Junior Jay senior Super-Stater Akol Arop will be doing as a Nebraska small forward prospect beginning next season.
The 6-foot-6 Arop got the ball at the free-throw line, then drove the left side of the lane for a layup, part of his team-high 21 points that led the defending Class A state champions and No. 1-ranked Jays to a 75-68 victory over No. 10 Omaha South.
Arop finished 9-of-11 from the field, mostly on drives to the basket instead of the post-up moves close to the basket like he used the last three seasons. He missed his only three-point attempt, but he had plenty of teammates who drained perimeter shots as Prep (8-0) knocked down 11 three-pointers.
“We try to give him some freedom out there and get him in space where he can do some things with the ball,” Prep coach Josh Luedtke said of Arop, who also had eight rebounds and five blocked shots. “He’s getting better and better at it every day. He’ll continue to develop his ball skills and his outside shooting ability. He’s going to be an elite defender at the next level, but he’ll also be a scorer at Nebraska.”
Arop says he works on his perimeter game every day “inside and outside of practice.” He knows the fruits of that labor, however, may not be visible this season, not with the variety of three-point shooters the Jays possess.
“Right now, I need to go inside because that’s what’s best for the team,” Arop said. “We have a lot of guys on the perimeter who can shoot it, so I need to post up and try to get those guys open looks out there. And when they knock those shots down, that opens up driving lanes for me.”
Omaha South coach Bruce Chubick Sr., who coached Akol’s older brother, Super-Stater Aguek Arop at South, said Akol’s improved perimeter quickness and explosiveness to the hole might’ve caught the Packers off guard.
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“We didn’t expect him to take us off the bounce, that was an unpleasant surprise,” said Chubick, whose team dropped to 8-2. “We have some big guys with quick feet matched up against him and he drove around all of them.”
The older Arop also was committed to Nebraska, but Aguek and the Huskers parted ways before his senior year when NU pulled the scholarship offer and encouraged him to go to a prep school for a year before coming to Lincoln. Augek is now a freshman at San Diego State.
Chubick’s son and assistant coach, Bruce Jr., played at Nebraska during the Huskers’ heydays in the early to mid 1990s. The former Super-Stater from Atkinson West Holt has been disappointed with NU’s lack of recruiting in Omaha in recent years, but is encouraged by the Huskers landing Akol Arop and their scholarship offers to Millard North sophomore shooting guard Hunter Sallis and Bellevue West sophomore point guard Chucky Hepburn.
“Better late than never,” Chubick Jr. said.
“Akol is a very physically talented kid,” the former Husker added. “I think he might be a better leaper than Aguek. Akol is an extremely hard worker, he’s asked to play more minutes and he works his tail off out there. He’s a tough matchup for everyone.”