Omaha World-Herald

All-Nebraska basketball

Royal Court

It was a cold day for an outdoor photo when our All-Nebraska first-teamers gathered for a picture outside Joslyn Castle. But the players toughed it out. They were a cut above all season when talent was plentiful on high school basketball courts in Nebraska. This wasn’t the only time they showed some grit.

The kings and queens of this castle are, back from left, Chloe Dworak, Lincoln Christian; Quinn Weidemann, Omaha Westside; McKenna Sims, South Sioux City; Aguek Arop, Omaha South; Ed Chang, Papillion-La Vista; Kanon Koster, Kearney; and Ayo Akinwole, Papillion-La Vista. Front from left, Jaden Wrightsell, Omaha Northwest; McKenna Minter, Lincoln Northeast; and Teddy Allen, Boys Town.

Click each button below to see our selections to the 2017 boys and girls All-Nebraska basketball teams. Photo above by The World-Herald's Kent Sievers.

KENT SIEVERS/THE WORLD-HERALD

Papillion-La Vista's Ayo Akinwole and Lincoln Christian's Chloe Dworak captain the 2017 All-Nebraska basketball teams.

Papillion-La Vista's Ayo Akinwole captains team brimming with college potential

Ayo Akinwole, who had lit up teams all season, was beaming.

He’d just heard he was the honorary captain of this year’s All-Nebraska boys basketball team. A big smile crossed his face.

It was a gloomy day outside Joslyn Castle, the location for this year’s all-state photo shoot, but not inside the historic mansion with Akinwole.

“Last year I was All-Metro and kind of upset I wasn’t all-state,” the Papillion-La Vista senior point guard said. “I had that as a main goal to get both this year, and it’s fun being here with these guys. They’re a lot of my close friends.”

For sure, one is Monarch teammate Ed Chang. He and Kearney’s Kanon Koster are the two juniors on the first team that includes seniors Aguek Arop of Omaha South and Teddy Allen of Boys Town.

Allen has signed with West Virginia, Akinwole with UNO. Chang said he holds offers from Nebraska, Creighton and St. John’s.

So the book on the 103rd All-Nebraska team could be just beginning. Considering those on the second and third teams, the 15 players — 11 seniors, three juniors and a sophomore — possess as much college potential as any group in the past 25 years.

On the all-senior second team are Division I-bound Logan Strom of state champion Norfolk (UC Davis) and Isaiah Poor Bear Chandler of Omaha Central (New Mexico) along with David Wingett of Winnebago, Dru Kuxhausen of Scottsbluff and Jaxon Simons of Class C-1 champion Wahoo Neumann.

Among third-team selections, junior Shereef Mitchell of Omaha Burke and sophomore Malcolm Whitlow of Lincoln Northeast seem on paths to Division I, too. Also on the third unit are Central Florida football recruit Noah Vedral of Wahoo Neumann and two more seniors, Zach Imig of two-time Class B champion Gretna and Shae Wyatt of Millard West.

Observations of The World-Herald sports staff and nominations from coaches determine the All-Nebraska and all-class teams. All coaches received nomination forms by email.

Not much separates those on the first team from the second. Strom was viewed as the best player in the state tournament. Wingett finished among the top five scorers all-time and Kuxhausen was among the toughest players to guard. Simons was a three-time Class C-1 pick who garnered All-Nebraska status his last two seasons. Chandler was the best true big man in the state’s largest class.

But judged to be a cut above, through their season-long performance, are the All-Nebraska first five.

Akinwole is regarded as the best point guard in the state. Chang’s versatility could change a game on the perimeter or in the post on either end of the court.

Koster’s scoring was essential to the Bearcats winning 19 games in a row and making the Class A semifinals. He hit for 20 or more points in 13 of Kearney’s last 18 games, with a high of 38.

Arop carried South as the only returning starter from its 2016 state-championship team and put up his best numbers while playing out of necessity out of his comfort zone.

And Allen, playing in the best small-school league, was the best scorer the state has seen in more than 20 years.

“That would be awesome, us five on the same team,” Akinwole said.

He started for Papio coach Dan Moore for four years.

“Unless his arm’s falling off, he wasn’t coming out of a game,” Moore said. “He’s one of the best kids in the world and an awesome player. He’s going to be great at UNO. He’s like a son. I’m super proud of him.”

The 5-foot-11 Akinwole scored 1,269 points in his career and averaged 17.2 points as a senior.

“I have to get stronger. I have to improve my jump shot,” he said. “I have to get better on the defensive end and stay in the weight room this summer.”

The 6-9 Chang went past 1,000 points for his career during the state tournament. He averaged 18.1 points, 7.7 rebounds and four blocks a game.

“If you ever messed up, he helps you out,” Akinwole said. “You get beat on the defensive end, he’s back there to block that shot. You miss a shot, he’s there to put it back. He’s just a great competitor and he’s good at everything he does.”

Chang was still in a walking boot at the photo shoot, protecting the left ankle he severely sprained during the state semifinals. He gutted out 10 points and five rebounds in the title-game loss to Norfolk.

“We had a good season,” Chang said. “That loss does not define us at all.”

The 6-6 Arop averaged 17.1 points and a Class A-leading 9.8 rebounds for Omaha South, which won nine in a row to reach the state semifinals before losing to Norfolk.

“Aguek had a lot to do in keeping the train on the tracks,” South coach Bruce Chubick said. “His patience and leadership had a lot to do with how the season went.”

Arop’s likely college position is small forward, but Chubick said the Packers needed him to play inside for the most part, although he was given more latitude in shooting 3s. The coach said Arop would have been best served by taking 17 or 18 shots a game, but was too unselfish to do that.

A former Nebraska pledge who parted ways with the Huskers last summer, Arop is checking out prep schools and colleges while playing on weekends this spring for Colorado-based Chauncey Billups Elite.

He was last year’s Gatorade player of the year in Nebraska, an honor that Allen received this year.

The 6-6 Allen led the state in scoring at 31.6 points a game and was second in rebounding at 13.0.

“He became a little bit more willing to share the ball,” Boys Town coach Tom Krehbiel said. “He definitely became more willing to go inside and understand the value of rebounding and understand the value of turning your back to the basket at times against players who can’t guard you.

“He already had a great perimeter game. He could already dribble it, shoot it and pass it, but he learned the value of just rebounding and sharing the ball a little bit.”

The 6-3 Koster is the first All-Nebraska first-teamer from Kearney since Tanner Engel in 1999 and only the fourth for the Bearcats. Koster’s father, Doug, was on the second team in 1991.

The younger Koster averaged 20.3 points a game and set school records with 549 points and 166 made free throws. He also averaged 6.2 rebounds.

“He’s got a midrange game,” Kearney coach Drake Beranek said. “He can post you. He can shoot the 3-ball. He can drive it. He can pull down the offensive rebound. And he can make free throws.”

All-Nebraska boys
first-team selections

Captain

Ayo Akinwole
Papillion-La Vista

Ed Chang
Papillion-La Vista

Kanon Koster
Kearney

Aguek Arop
Omaha South

Teddy Allen
Boys Town

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Related links

Complete All-Nebraska boys teams

Patterson: Frigid photo makes for chattering teeth but stiff upper lips at All-Nebraska shoot

All-Metro Boys Team: Omaha Burke's Shereef Mitchell joins Division I talent on top team

All-Area Boys Team: Quite a ride for Jaxon Simson and Noah Vedral, Wahoo Neumann’s ‘racehorses’

A century of high-fives in Nebraska state hoops

Every Nebraska boys basketball all-state selection of all time

Nebraska state tournament: Championships by the decade

Photos: Celebrating past All-Nebraska basketball teams

All-Nebraska basketball selections have history of success on college level

Credits

Stu Pospisil

Phone:
402-444-1041

Email:
stu.pospisil@owh.com

Twitter:
@stuOWH

Web presentation:
Graham Archer, Brandon Olson