Bellevue West guard Chucky Hepburn isn’t playing like a freshman

Bellevue West coach Doug Woodard knew guard Chucky Hepburn would contribute as a freshman, but the veteran coach said he is playing at a level beyond his years, helping the 9-4 Thunderbirds to four straight wins and a No. 10 ranking.

Bellevue West coach Doug Woodard had to marvel at a number his freshman point guard put up against a good Omaha Westside team Dec. 22.

“He drew four charges in that game,” he said of Chucky Hepburn. “I never had a kid draw four charges in a game.”

And those four charges came the same night Hepburn scored 40 points.

Woodard knew Hepburn would contribute as a freshman, but the veteran coach said he is playing at a level beyond his years, helping the 9-4 Thunderbirds to four straight wins and a No. 10 ranking.

Hepburn is second on the team behind senior Cedric Johnson in scoring (15.2 per game) and rebounding (4.3), and leads Bellevue West in assists (4.3) and steals (2.3).

“Chucky’s really good,” Westside coach Jim Simons said. “He’s very developed physically for a freshman and he’s got a very good skillset. That’s a credit to him. He’s a kid that takes the game very seriously. His skill level is very high, his understanding of the game in very high.”

Westside did a better job containing Hepburn when it faced the Thunderbirds eight days later in the Metro holiday tournament. The Warriors played more zone and held Hepburn to 10 points in their 55-54 win.

But the freshman has been a consistent offensive threat. He has scored in double figures in 11 of 13 games.

“He has some gifts that are rare,” Woodard said. “He can score at all three levels — at the 3-point line, between and at the rim — and there’s not many people that can do that.

“His court vision, in my opinion, is his best trait from an offensive perspective. He just sees the whole court. And he’s never really in a hurry. He plays the game at his own speed, and those are things you really can’t teach.”

Hepburn also has been a very good free-throw shooter. Hepburn is hitting 85.1 percent from the line while averaging 5.7 attempts per game. During Hepburn’s 40-point performance, he went 11 of 18 from the field with four 3-pointers and hit all 14 of his free throws.

But Woodard likes to return to defense, where he says Hepburn has made the biggest improvement since preseason.

“One stat we keep track of is deflections,” Woodard said. “In our last game against Bellevue East (last Friday), he had 13. In my view, he just kind of took over the game defensively.

“The ability to impact games on both ends is a rare trait, especially for a young kid.”

Hepburn and the Thunderbirds will be challenged in the feature game at Saturday’s Nebraska Prep Classic at Ralston Arena. Bellevue West faces one of Colorado’s top teams, Denver East, at 8:30 p.m. Denver East is led by Colorado signee Daylen Kountz, who is averaging 22.8 points and 4.3 assists per game.

“That will be a tall order. When we get to it, that should be fun,” said Woodard, who added that his team’s focus right now is on Friday’s Metro Conference matchup at Omaha North.

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Gene covers a variety of sports beats for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @geneOWH. Phone: 402-444-1038.

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