First, there was Marvin. He was followed by Deandre. And don’t forget Kyree.
Marvin Bagley III and Deandre Ayton were both high school basketball players ranked No. 1 in the nation. Kyree Walker was the national Freshman of the Year. All landed in Arizona at Hillcrest Prep, one of the growing number of high school “basketball factories” across the country.
And now comes Omaha.
Not the city, but the 6’7″ basketball player from Iowa who was just ranked by the recruiting publication, Nothing But Net, as the No. 1 college prospect in the nation for the Class of 2023.
His full name is Omaha Biliew. Last year he played as a freshman for Dowling Catholic High School in Iowa, where he was considered by some prep recruiting services to be the best freshman in the nation.
He has three years to develop his game at Hillcrest and live up to these early predictions. Hillcrest isn’t a member of the Arizona Interscholastic Association, so it doesn’t compete against local schools, but instead plays a national schedule against similar programs around the country.
If Biliew is still at Hillcrest when his senior year arrives, he will have lasted longer than his illustrious predecessors. Bagley played his freshman season at Corona del Sol High School in Tempe and played at Hillcrest as a sophomore before his family moved to California. Ayton and Walker spent their sophomore and juniors years at Hillcrest.
Walker skipped his senior season of high school basketball and graduated last December, saying he wants to be able to focus on whether he will play in college or look to jump to the professional game. He plans to spend the next year with professional trainers to help him get ready for the 2021 NBA draft.
Bagley’s No. 1 status helped Hillcrest, which was started in time for the 2015-16 season, gain early credibility. Ayton added to that by becoming the second No. 1 to pick Hillcrest, just two months after Bagley joined the program in October of 2016. That was a huge assist in developing interest from national sponsors for the basketball program, which is based in Gilbert at Inspire Courts. Nike was an early supporter, Adidas is the team’s current sponsor.
Both wound up at a couple of the elite basketball schools in the country, Bagley at Duke and Ayton at University of Arizona – where they stayed just one season before moving on to the NBA.
And now the youngster from Iowa is coming to the desert to use the same springboard to college…and perhaps beyond.
In the meantime, Hillcrest’s latest acquisition should help keep the folks at Adidas happy.