Weekend recap: Nebraska squad performs well in state's first shoe-sponsored league appearance

Shereef Mitchell, who was playing with virtually one eye shut due to a bout with pink eye earlier in the week, wasn’t the leading scorer for OSA 17u, but was terrific defensively.

The first-ever appearance by an AAU program based in Nebraska in a shoe-sponsored league saw the Nebraskans perform well.

“It was an incredible experience for our guys,” Omaha Sports Academy’s Bob Franzese said. “As expected, the competition was an extremely high level and we were exposed to a whole new level of athleticism.”

The OSA 17U played in the Silver Division of the Adidas Gauntlet, while the 16U and 15U competed in the Gold Division. There is a difference between the Silver and Gold levels, but not as much as some might think.

The more established teams or teams attached to an NBA or former NBA player compete in the Gold Division. The competition is a bit tougher in Gold, although Silver is still very competitive and littered with players who currently have major offers, as well as teams that have NBA player affiliation.

As for playing in a shoe league, Franzese came away happy with the program’s results after the first weekend.

“It was a great opportunity for our players to play in front of a significant number of college coaches,” Franzese said. “We were excited to get an initial taste of what a shoe league looked like and are excited to lace it up again next week in Atlanta.”

OSA’s teams weren’t the only Nebraska teams to play in the Dallas area over the weekend. While OSA teams were participating in the Adidas Gauntlet, Omaha Elite 17U opened league play in the NY2LA Sports Basketball League.

OSA 17U Adidas finished 4-1, with a 64-59 loss on Saturday to New Orleans Elite as the one blemish. The four wins were a 50-47 win over Team Carroll (Birmingham, Alabama), a 63-54 victory over the Michigan Mustangs, a 70-67 win over Kevon Looney Elite from Milwaukee and a 71-64 victory over the Las Vegas Knicks.

Franzese, coach of the 17U OSA Adidas team, was excited about their effort.

“I’m really proud of our guys and pleased with everyone’s aggressiveness and unselfishness,” he said. “This is an extremely mature and focused group that understands what it takes to win. The competition was the real deal, and to win four out of five games in a 27-hour span against the level of competition and physicality we faced is a huge statement.”

A few standouts from OSA 17U Adidas:

>> 2018 Omaha Burke guard Shereef Mitchell, who was playing with virtually one eye shut due to a bout with pink eye earlier in the week. Mitchell wasn’t the leading scorer, but was terrific defensively. He was called upon to guard the opposing teams’ best guards, and more than passed the test.

>> 2018 Omaha Central point guard Roman Behrens is the quintessential point guard. He leads his team in every way and his basketball IQ is, as a Division I coach said, “off the charts.” Behrens was under control and picked his spots to attack the basket when the time was right. A magician with the basketball, Behrens handled extreme pressure all weekend and rarely turned it over.

>> Platteview center Brady Heiman drew a lot of attention. After all, he is 6-foot-11 and moves extremely well for a player that size. Heiman’s best game of the weekend came at the right time. Playing in front of assistant coaches at AAU tournaments is one thing. Playing in front of head coaches is another. In order to extend a scholarship offer, head coaches typically want to see a player perform against a high level of competition. Power Six conference schools that are interested in Heiman include Creighton, Minnesota and Nebraska.

Sunday morning, Heiman scored 17 points in front of several head coaches — Creighton’s Greg McDermott, Minnesota’s Richard Pitino and UNO’s Derrin Hansen. Nebraska assistant Michael Lewis also had a presence all weekend to keep tabs on Heiman.

UNO and South Dakota are the two schools that had offered Heiman prior to the weekend, and South Dakota’s Craig Smith was in attendance for the Heiman’s final game.

A rundown of some other OSA 17U Adidas players: Millard North junior Nick Ferrarini was the team’s leading scorer throughout the weekend. ... Lincoln East’s Jordan Janssen did the little things —taking charges, playing good post defense and rebounding well. ... Bellevue West forward Khuath Gatkhuath was a bright spot on Sunday. While he didn’t score at a high rate, he chased down opposing players to block shots and rebounded well out of his area well. ... Kearney High’s Kanon Koster saved his best game of the weekend for last. The junior scored 21 points and connected on 5 of 7 shots from 3-point range.

OSA 16s .500 in Dallas

OSA 16U Adidas also was in Dallas over the weekend. While playing without Papillion-La Vista South forward Lok Wur and Lincoln Pius X guard Charlie Easley due to injury, the group had an up-and-down stay, finishing 2-2.

Creighton Prep’s Akol Arop and Aurora’s Baylor Scheierman were the standouts. Arop can get off the ground in a hurry, leaping to block shots and grab rebounds. In the team’s first win of the weekend, Saturday versus Team Arsenal from California, Arop started with a bang — a big dunk, and then followed with a basket while getting fouled, and a “meet me at the rim” blocked shot. The plays showcased just how athletic the sophomore is.

Scheierman is a taller guard who can play multiple positions due to his length. He also is a good passer with good court vision and can shoot at a high percentage. He hit a three-quarter court buzzer-beater at the end of a half in one game.

OSA 15s lose some close ones

OSA 15U ended the weekend with a 1-3 record, but easily could have been 3-1 if a few more possessions went their way.

It suffered a 59-53 loss on Friday night to Thunder Struck from Florida and a 37-34 loss to Net Gain Sports out of Minneapolis. Omaha Westside freshman Jadin Booth was a bright spot all weekend. Booth, who is known as a dead-eye 3-point specialist, showed he is more than just a shooter. He rebounded well for his position among the taller post players and was a catalyst on fast breaks, pushing the ball and connecting on some long-range assists.

Chang shines

Among the players from Nebraska who participated in Dallas was Papillion-La Vista junior Ed Chang, who is with the Iowa Barnstormers. Chang had a high of 17 points in the Barnstormers’ 78-74 loss to South Carolina Supreme on Sunday.

In a win on Saturday versus the Colorado Hawks, Chang started hot, connecting on his first two shots from behind the 3-point line while finishing with 13 points and seven rebounds. The Barnstormers finished 3-1.

NY2LA Lone Star Invitational

Omaha Elite 17U finished its weekend at 2-2 with wins over Mac Irvin Fire Elite and AUSA Platinum team comprised of players from Australia. The two losses were to Kessell Heat Black from Chicago area and Team Blaze Select out of Indiana.

Waverly forward Tanner Wubbels attacked the basket well and finished at the rim with contact on more than one occasion. Point guard Ty Carroll, who played for Omaha North in the 2016-17 high school season and is transferring to Millard South for his senior year, had some good moments as well. Carroll was effective with a mid-range jumper and attacked the basket. Glenwood, Iowa, forward Andrew Blum had a good weekend. Against Kessel, Blum scored 13 points while rebounding effectively out of his area.

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