Less than an hour after suffering a disappointing loss in the championship game of the Mullen's High Profile Tournament on Sunday, the Omaha Elite 15U team was sitting in a Steak 'n Shake just outside of St. Louis somberly thinking about their missed opportunity for another AAU tournament title. The mood of the team quickly changed completely with one phone call.
It was Nebraska head coach Tim Miles, and he was calling to extend a scholarship offer to 2017 small forward Aguek Arop.
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Miles and NU assistant Jim Molinari kept a close eye on the Omaha Elite squad this past weekend the Mullen's national event, watching three of the team's four games, including Miles taking in for the title game against the No. 3 ranked 15U program in the country, KC Run GMC.
"(Miles) called and said, 'I want to offer Aguek Arop a scholarship. What do you think?'" Omaha Elite coach Thomas Liechti said. "And I said, 'Yeah, why not? He's a great kid. He's got one of the best motors I've ever seen. The kid just never stops going. He's just 100-percent, all-out effort all the time. I think the thing that they like most about him is his size and the thought that he's going to continue to grow, because he's definitely not done growing.
"I think the thing they like other than his motor and just his flat-out ability is the diversity of his game and how multiple he can play. He can legitimately play any position on the floor. We have him playing one through four for us, because he can pretty much do just about anything offensively. Defensively, he can guard one through five. He can guard the other team's point guard or he can guard their post players. He's very diverse and multiple. He can play so many different roles, and that's really what I think is so appealing about him."
Arop, who will be a sophomore at Omaha South this year, certainly does bring a wide array of skills to the court. In helping guide the Packers to a 20-6 record and a No. 2 seed in the 2013-14 Class A state tournament, Arop averaged 6.7 points and 4.9 rebounds per game as a freshman. Now at 6-foot-4, 185 pounds, Liechti said Arop was only just beginning to scratch the surface on his development as a player.
"He's just now really starting to hone in on his shooting and his ball handling, and it's crazy how quickly and well those things have developed," Liechti said. "The good thing about it is if he keeps going, he's just going to continue to get better, because he really addressed those things. He said he really wanted to work hard on and focus on his ball handling and his shooting. He's worked very hard on both of those, and in a short amount of time it's already starting to pay off."
Nebraska was Arop's first and only high-major offer, and Liechti said Nebraska-Omaha was the only other Division I school that had been showing legitimate interest prior to the first of three July live recruiting periods this weekend. However, based on Arop's recent play and the fact that Omaha Elite is currently 29-3 on the AAU season, it might not be long before many other schools follow the Huskers' lead.
"Nebraska was his first offer, but I'm assuming they're not the last, because we had quite a few coaches at our games this weekend," Liechti said. "So I'm expecting him to pick up more offers."
Not only is Arop succeeding on the court, he's also getting the job done in the classroom. He posted a 3.4 GPA last year at South, and he doesn't even own a cell phone.
"He's a great student," Liechti said. "He's a very focused kid. He's very humble. He's very respectful. He works hard, he's a very high-character kid. He's that good of a kid, and he really does deserve it."