Omaha Biliew, now the nation's No. 2 junior basketball prospect, steps into national spotlight on AAU scene
COUNCIL BLUFFS, Ia. — For a basketball prospect as highly regarded as Omaha Biliew, he actually hasn't lived much of his life in the spotlight.
His name started spreading among Iowa circles when he was a dominant middle-schooler at St. Francis of Assisi in West Des Moines.
Then, as a freshman, he had a fine season at Dowling Catholic but nothing that would generate national headlines. Even after eye-opening AAU performances summer after his freshman year, and even as he helped lead Waukee to a state title this past winter, Biliew was still relatively unknown to the casual college basketball recruiting fan.
That has all changed now.
Biliew, a 6-foot-8 wing who's shaping up to be an ideal modern 3/4 blend, dazzled on the AAU circuit this past spring in his first season with national juggernaut MOKAN Elite. Then, in June, Biliew announced his transfer from Waukee to Montverde Academy, where he'll play against the country's best of the best on ESPN networks over the final two years of his high school career.
Translation: The spotlight on Biliew is brighter than ever before as he and his MOKAN Elite 16U team prepare for the Peach Jam, where basketball phenoms earn their pre-college fame. That's exactly how he wants it.
This July, he wants to prove he deserves it.
"I've always had that mindset," Biliew said. "Even coming up as a basketball player, even before I was what people know me as now. I've always had that big mindset of, 'I can do this against anybody. Not just in this little space. I can play against anybody.' That's always been me."
"There's way more attention now. They want to see me play. I'm glad about that, too, because there's a lot more people coming to see me play and I enjoy that. It gives me more energy to play."
Omaha Biliew living up to his No. 2 ranking with MOKAN Elite
MOKAN Elite 16U went 3-0 this past weekend at the Midwest Live! Summer Showcase in Council Bluffs. It played in the 17U division and outscored opponents by 113 points.
Biliew was active on both sides of the ball, producing inside and outside on offense, and using his length, instincts and lateral quickness to wreak havoc on defense. During his team's first game Saturday, in front of Nebraska head coach Fred Hoiberg and Michigan head coach Juwan Howard, Biliew jumped a passing lane and broke away for a high-flying dunk on the other end.
He looked the part of a national must-have. Hoiberg was also courtside for Biliew's second game Saturday. Nebraska and Michigan have offered, along with Iowa, Kansas, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois and Western Kentucky. Iowa State, Kentucky, Memphis, Gonzaga and Ohio State are also involved. Biliew unofficially visited Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa State and Iowa in June.
A couple weeks ago, Rivals bumped Biliew up to No. 2 in the country's 2023 class. Recently, the 247Sports Composite ranked in No. 2 in the class, as well.
"It's good to be ranked. It's a blessing, obviously. But it changes nothing, you know?" Biliew said. "I'm still playing basketball. I'm still in high school. I'm still doing everything. But it still gives me more of a target on my back and it just makes me work more. It just allows me to prove to you why I'm No. 2 — and that I'm better than that."
Biliew's best asset: 'Being able to initiate togetherness'
Chris Tyler, Biliew's head coach with MOKAN Elite, said Biliew had a learning curve when he joined the program this past fall. In Iowa, he was the guy on basically every court he stepped on. With MOKAN, he's surrounded by players who were the guy.
But Biliew adjusted quickly, Tyler said, because he's a great teammate.
"With him, his status, he's not somebody that's arrogant or thinks he's above anybody. He's a team-first guy, which is what would surprise people, being the No. 2 player in the country," Tyler said. "That's his best asset: being able to initiate togetherness."
The next step in Biliew's development? Focusing on the details, Tyler said.
"When he's locked in a possession and he's clicking on the details, he can play with anybody in the country," Tyler said. "His ceiling is really high. When he's locked in all the way, he's untouchable.
"He's got an opportunity to prove to everybody that he's a multi-dimensional player. He's able to guard multiple spots, he's able to play multiple spots and he's also able to make plays and shoot the basketball. He's not just a force inside that's going to be athletic and a man amongst boys. He can create off the dribble. He can make really good reads and passes. And he can known down a jump shot."
What's next for Biliew?
Up next for Biliew and MOKAN Elite is a plane ride to Augusta, South Carolina. There, they'll play in the Nike EYBL regular season and the Peach Jam during the July 16-18 and 23-25 live periods. Biliew will play in front of more high-level Division I coaches at the same time than he ever has in his life at Peach Jam.
After that, Biliew told the Register he has accepted an invitation to the NBPA Top 100 Camp, which runs July 28-29. D-I coaches will be in attendance.
Then he'll get officially started at Montverde, whose recent alumni include projected No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick Cade Cunningham, Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, R.J. Barrett and D'Angelo Russell.
Matthew Bain is the deputy sports editor for the Des Moines Register. He still covers some recruiting, too. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.