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Donovan Williams

Lincoln North Star’s Donovan Williams (3) drives to the basket against Lincoln High’s Keiovion Overstreet (center) and Carlos Santistevan (right) during a game in December.

Donovan Williams has a message to basketball fans across the state as a new high school boys season tips off on Thursday.

“People shouldn’t miss this,” said the 6-foot-5 Lincoln North Star junior who committed this past summer to play at Nebraska. “I think this year is going to be exciting to watch. There’s talent that this state probably hasn’t seen in a while, not just the four players who have been offered by Nebraska, but the other Division I recruits who haven’t been offered (by NU).”

Williams joins 6-6 first-team Super-Stater Akol Arop as the two Husker commits in the state right now. Two more have offers — Bellevue West sophomore point guard Chucky Hepburn and Millard North sophomore wing Hunter Sallis.

And there will be plenty of talent on the court Thursday night when preseason Class A No. 8 North Star travels to No. 6 Omaha Westside for a 7:15 p.m. first-round game of the Early Bird Classic. Westside features standout junior guard Jadin Booth, who has an Omaha scholarship offer, as well as 6-6 senior Chase Thompson, who has Division II scholarship interest.

“I think we’re pretty good, but this will be a real telling point of where we’re at,” North Star coach Tony Quattrocchi said. “It will be a major challenge for us on the road.”

It’s the kind of challenge Williams is looking forward to. After averaging 19 points per game as a sophomore, he took his game to another level during the offseason playing for the Iowa Barnstormers 16s AAU team. He was able to raise his national profile to a four-star recruit by impressing coaches with his ability to attack the basket and finish in transition, but also to knock down the long three-pointer.

Williams knows, however, he’ll need to contribute more than just lofty offensive numbers for North Star to reach its team goals this season.

“I need to be playing hard the whole game and be a leader on the court,” Williams said. “We have talent on this team, I need to make sure my teammates are involved. If I consistently defend, rebound, get a high number of assists and score in the 20s every game, I think we can win a lot of games.”

Williams, the younger brother of Wisconsin freshman defensive lineman Bryson Williams, is learning how to deal with the pressure and attention that goes with being a Husker recruit. He’s getting accustomed to total strangers greeting him on the streets and kids asking for autographs.

“There’s a lot of pressure, but this is what I work out for,” Donovan Williams said. “This is why I’m in the gym every day trying to get better. The work I’ve put in has prepared me for this, to prove to people that I’m more than hype, that I’m the real deal.”

Opponents will have to deal with the Navigators’ overall height. North Star complements Williams with 6-6 senior Josiah Allick and 6-3 junior Jared Lopez, a returning starter who averaged six points and four rebounds per game as a sophomore.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7437 or rpowell@journalstar.com. On Twitter @ronpowell_ljs.

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Sports reporter

Ron Powell is a longtime prep writer for the Journal Star. He covers high school football, boys basketball and track as well as state college football and Husker and professional tennis.

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