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With three more high school seasons to go before he even sets foot on the court as a Nebraska player, it's hard to know exactly what the Huskers will eventually be getting in Omaha South wing Aguek Arop, who became their first verbal commit of the 2017 class on Monday.
Based on what his coaches at the high school and AAU levels have seen from the 6-foot-4, 185-pound sophomore thus far, it sounds like the sky is the limit for Tim Miles's latest addition.
Shortly after Arop announced his commitment at Omaha South on Monday morning, HuskerOnline.com went one-on-one with South head coach Bruce Chubick, Omaha Elite 15U head coach Thomas Liechti and professional player development specialist Adam Barnes to get their takes on what Arop will bring to the Huskers' lineup in a few years.
While it's still a long ways off from now until the 2017-18 season, both coaches agreed that if Arop continues to develop at the rate he's been on the past year, big things should be in store down the road.
"He's made giant strides," Chubick said. "He came in with a good work ethic, but it's even developed more since he's gotten here. The weight room is something we're always harping on with our guys. That's the difference, we think, between a lot of the programs and where we're at. We push the weights, and he's bought into it. Since he went down and visited with Coach Miles I think he's been in the weight room every day."
With his current size, Arop said Miles told him they project him to be more of a shooting guard at the next level. However, some are projecting him to grow a few more inches by the time he gets to college and potentially getting up to 6-7 or 6-8 when he arrives in Lincoln.
For now, Arop will continue to play the three and four spots at South, where he started as a freshman on last season's Packers squad that went 20-6 and earned a No. 2 seed in the 2013-14 Class A state tournament.
His instant impact at South carried right on over into a breakout season on the AAU circuit with Omaha Elite, which rolled its way to a 39-4 record and a top-10 national ranking when all was said and done. Playing against some of the top 15U programs from around the country, Arop averaged roughly 15 points and 10 rebounds to not only pick up his first Division I offer from Nebraska, but also attract interest from Iowa, Iowa State, Creighton, Oklahoma and Harvard.
Liechti said he wasn't surprised one bit by Arop's impressive summer, saying he could see it coming even before Omaha Elite's first tournament of the year back in April.
"I did, because he's a very high-level player who played varsity as a freshman for a team that went to the state tournament," Liechti said. "That right there kind of already proves that he's an extremely elite player… It's crazy, I think his potential is unlimited. I think Coach Miles, when we went down there on his unofficial, I knew right away, I could just tell Coach Miles had him. In the short amount of time we spent down there, Coach Miles did a phenomenal job. He had me ready to commit.
"I think this is going to be a good thing. I think by him committing early will maybe get him motivated, because Coach Miles painted a really high-ceiling picture for him in showing him what is in front of him, and I think it motivated him. I think he's going to work really hard, and I think the best is definitely yet to come. He's 15 years old, and he's a great kid."
Barnes, a Nebraska native who's worked extensively with Arop in individual workouts, has helped coach top prospects from across the country. He called Arop "one of the more dynamic prospects in the country" who thrived on his versatility on both ends of the floor. While his overall game is still a work in progress, Barnes said he had no doubt Arop would eventually become a complete player based on his impressive work ethic.
"As far as work ethic, I don't know anyone that has worked harder, especially in the last 6-8 months," Barnes said. "There wasn't a day this summer he wasn't in the gym with us, with Coach Liechti, or Coach Chubick. As far as potential, I think he got a glimpse of how good he could be when he camp to camp in Nashville in May. He went toe-to-toe with high-major prospects such as Josh Hill, Seth Towns, Melo Eggleston, Matthew Moyer, and Malik Dow.
"He caught the eyes of numerous national scouts and our phones continue to ring. In the end, I think he made the right decision. Nebraska is getting a player who has yet to even scratch the surface of his potential but is clearly one of the top prospects in his class. I am excited to see him go against our guys from Oak Hill later this season (at the Heartland Hoops Classic Grand Island, Neb.). I know Nebraska fans will not be disappointed."
Arop becomes the first in-state high school player to commit to Nebraska since 2002, ending a staggering drought and serving as a sign that things are starting to look up for the future of Nebraska high school talent. Being a legendary coach and father of NU basketball Hall of Fame forward Bruce Chubick Jr. (1990-94), Chubick knows as much as anyone the significance of Arop's commitment to his home state school, even if Arop himself might not fully understand it just yet.
"I don't think he really does," Chubick said. "He's just a young guy, you know, and he probably doesn't understand that. The rest of us do, though. It's so important to keep the in-state talent here and not letting the ones that can play get away; not letting Roy Williams and Fred Hoiberg and those guys come in here and snatch them out. I think it's a great step. I think Coach Miles, he's pretty smart, and he's not going to make any mistakes. He knows what the score is."