God-given talent, awe-striking athleticism, pure grit. All three descriptors are said to have defined senior guard and five-star recruit, Hunter Sallis’ success. For the prolific basketball player, his rise to renown has been punctuated by his status as a semifinalist for the Naismith High School Player of the Year award.
“It means a lot. This is a testament to my hard work and also another goal for me,” Sallis said. “Basketball keeps giving me things that I need to accomplish.”
Additionally, on Feb. 23, 2021, Sallis was also named a selection for the McDonald’s All American Games, becoming only the third Nebraska player in history to be selected. However, notoriety of this magnitude didn’t initially seem possible to Sallis and his family.
“Growing up, Hunter was not always the best player out on the floor,” Sallis’ mother and former WNBA basketball player and Central High alum Jessica Jackson said. “He faced a lot of adversity and did not always get in the game. Hence, his great work ethic.”
Following freshman year, Sallis saw a sizable improvement in his game as well as a three inch growth spurt to complement his polished technique. From freshman to sophomore year, he went from averaging 4.3 to 18.2 points per game. The scholarship offers started rolling in and didn’t stop.
“After his first scholarship, he hit me up immediately, wanting to get back in the gym,” founder and trainer of basketball facility, The Factory, Ryan Foster said. “You knew he wasn’t going to be satisfied with just one offer. With everything that people happen to be seeing on the outside [regarding] his success, what they don’t know is how much hard work he’s put in, the countless hours.”
Sallis’ work in the gym has garnered him offers from prestigious basketball programs like Gonzaga University, Creighton University, and the University of Kentucky. He said he will release his commitment on Mar. 26 and affirm his decision on National Signing Day in April.
The relationship Sallis has with college coaches and the ease of fitting into a program’s system and style of play are factors he is taking into account.Still, many students and Nebraskans alike are hopeful for the player’s ascent to the NBA.
“I just want to see what position I’m in after a year,” Sallis said. “If I’m in a good position to go [to the NBA] after that year, then, I’ll do it. But if not, then I’ll stay another year just taking all my options in and picking the best one.”
Jackson believes that despite her son’s reserved persona, he will make an impact in the basketball world.
“I always knew he was special,” Jackson said. “If things go the way he hopes, I think he will be on somebody’s court with an NBA uniform on, after college of course.”
Although he can’t remember when he first picked up a basketball, Sallis’ love for the sport has been one of the most prominent fixtures of his life.
“Basketball can take you to a different place,” Sallis said. “When you’re not having such a good day, you just pick up a ball and forget about everything.”
Regardless of the outcome of the Naismith award, Sallis will never be forgotten by the Nebraska basketball community. His coaches, teammates, and opponents are confident that the five-star recruit will go down in history as one of the greatest high school players Nebraska has ever seen.