Class of 2023 prospect Omaha Biliew showed off the ability to finish through contact during the AAU event Battle at the Lakes. Des Moines Register
Omaha Biliew's first week of high school basketball didn't exactly go well.
Heralded as one of the country's best 2023 prospects, Biliew thrilled Dowling Catholic fans last May when he elected to play with the Maroons over several other schools in the Des Moines area.
Soon, as winter approached, the anticipation in Iowa's basketball community was palpable to see what this 6-foot-7, top-five nationally ranked freshman could do.
Then ... after scoring eight points in a season-opening loss to Iowa City West, Biliew was late to the pregame call time for Dowling's rivalry game against West Des Moines Valley, got benched the first half and scored just two points in the second half.
"The very next day," John Lamb, Biliew's AAU coach and trainer, told the Register, "all the low hanging fruit in our city is getting online talking about, 'How can this kid do this?' It's this, it's that, it's whatever.
"He sent me a very professional text message. He’s like, 'Hey ... I've got to be better.'"
And he was.
Biliew didn't light up the stat sheet as a freshman. He averaged 6.2 points and 3.6 rebounds on a team where he was not usually the focal point on offense. The only non-junior or senior on Dowling's roster, Biliew carved out an energizer, defense-first role for himself and earned a starting job for the Maroons' final seven games.
It's normal for a freshman's defense to be farther along than his offense. And, despite his lack of gaudy numbers, Biliew flashed all the enticing potential that landed him an Iowa offer as an eighth-grader and has schools around the country paying attention.
His domination from 12 feet to the basket. His improving 3-point stroke. His ability to drive and make shots. His defense. His length. His strength and power. His highlight-reel athleticism.
"In this basketball world, adversity comes and it comes fast and it comes hard, and the best ones are the ones that can stick it out. And I was really impressed with him in that regard," Lamb said. "Even though he kept getting better every game, he still hustled out of the locker room and hopped in the car and came right to the gym after those games because he just wasn't satisfied, whether it was his minutes or his performance or whatever it might be. He just wanted more."
Here's how much Biliew's lack of high-level production as a freshman matters: Nothing But Net Magazine, headed by respected scout/event organizer Dinos Trigonis, ranked Biliew as the country's No. 1 2023 prospect in its most recent edition.
Much of that ranking is thanks to Biliew's performances during his two invitations to USA Basketball training camps, where he has made a name for himself against some of the country's best 2021 and 2022 prospects.
"It speaks a lot about him from a national standpoint that he has so much potential," Lamb said. "But (potential) is definitely a word that we try and stay away from because you’ve got to produce, too, and that's a major deal in this game.
"He wants the tough, hard truth. He's not a kid, like a lot of these kids, that gets so much recognition early and is patting himself on the back."
Beyond his Iowa offer, Biliew's long list of interested schools includes programs such as Iowa State, Illinois, Nebraska, TCU, UCLA, USC, Louisville and Memphis.
He was invited to June's prestigious National Basketball Players Association Top 100 Camp, held at Virginia. Lamb said they're hoping that, if that camp happens, they'll get there a bit early so Biliew can tour Virginia — a school he's very interested in.
Lamb said Biliew also hopes to visit Iowa and Nebraska, among a few other schools, if the coronarivus-caused recruiting dead period is ever lifted this summer.
If AAU basketball does ever happen this year, Biliew will play up with Beyond Ball's 16-and-under team.
Lamb is optimistic there will be AAU this summer — perhaps in July and August.
"The second that he gets to play, he's gonna just blow people's doors off," Lamb said. "He's all of 6-7, almost 6-8. He weighs 210 pounds. He’s strong. He's shooting it better. He's sharp. His handles are better. He's playing with guys that he really, really likes and that trust him, and that know him and that he knows. One of his best things is he's an incredible passer and he gets some of our shooters shots that they would never have gotten if he wasn't the one that's facilitating and making it happen."
A potentially interesting wrinkle in Biliew's recruitment: By the time the 2023 prospects graduate, the NBA may once again allow high school seniors to enter the NBA Draft.
Lamb said it's far too early to be thinking about Biliew's pro versus college outlook.
But, if everything goes well with Biliew's growth and development over these next few years, Lamb knows that could become a topic of conversation down the line.
"It's just kind of waiting and not trying to get too ahead of ourselves," Lamb said. "He's a hungry kid. I can't say enough good things about who he is as a human."
Matthew Bain covers recruiting, Iowa/Iowa State athletics and Drake basketball for the Des Moines Register and USA TODAY Network. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.
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