Education, Big Ten basketball, instant playing time, experienced coaches, Rutgers checked off every box for Eugene Omoruyi in recruiting.
In return Omoruyi checked off every box in Steve Pikiell's search for the future of the program. A late signature for the 2017-16 season, Omoruyi officially joins Rutgers basketball at the end of August.
“His versatility is, first of all, off the charts,” Pikiell said. “He can play four positions. I can't tell you how many guys can do that. With ball-handling, we really needed an upgrade in that area. He's a terrific passer. He can post up. It brings an asset that can defend multiple positions. He's a good player and I think his best basketball is ahead of him because he started late starting his career.”
The Canadian wing out of Orangeville (Ont.) Prep gives Rutgers an 11th scholarship body for the season.
“I think this freshman class has tremendous versatility,” Pikiell said. “If we have an injury, he can play the two spot or he can play the three. When you have versatile guys, I think it helps a little bit. These guys are going to play too and I think that helps you sometimes too that they get a chance to play. Sometimes when you have 13 kids, three aren't getting into games. This way, they all know that there are going to be great opportunities to play.”
What does Pikiell see Omoruyi doing in his first year with Rutgers?
“Playing,” Pikiell said. “I think he can play four positions – one through four. He really is a terrific passer and he's got terrific ball-handling skills.”
Draymond Green of Golden State Warrior and USA Basketball fame became the popular comparison for 6-foot-6 Omoruyi. Is that fair?
“It's a fair comparison in a sense,” said Omoruyi's AAU coach Chris Smalling, head coach of Advantage Titans. “I think Eugene is more of a wing, but I think where they're similar – if there's a 50-50 ball, he's coming down with it. He's extremely physical. The first time he came up for our squad and we told him to bump the cutters, he almost took a guy's head off. He's that physical. You'll get that comparison a lot, but Eugene puts the ball on the floor more than Draymond.”
Smalling's ties to the Rutgers basketball coaching staff go back to the Connecticut Huskies.
While Rutgers builds from what was Rock Bottom in recent seasons, Smalling voiced confidence in Pikiell and the rest of the staff.
“I'm familiar with that staff, and I know they've won everywhere they've been,” Smalling said. “I thought I could really trust them knowing that it's a staff that would be there mentoring Eugene. He's obviously going to work hard for any team but I like the fact that those guys are there and they're honest.”
For a scouting report on Omoruyi, Scarlet Report went right to the source.
“The first time you see him play, you'll notice how physical he is, how aggressive he is,” Smalling said. “As he goes along, you'll realize that he does the other things. He has the intangibles. This year we had a game against UPlay that he hit eight threes for us. He just has a great balance and all-around game. Overall, he really can play multiple positions and, more importantly, he can defend multiple positions.”
The final decision for Omoruyi and family came down to academics first. During his August official visit, Omoruyi looked in-depth at the business school, met with academic advisers and discussed campus life with the team.
“We're a great academic school playing in a great academic league, and all of those challenges, he was excited about,” Pikiell said. “His parents are big on the academic end too. What we have at Rutgers, he wants to play, he wants to play right away, he wants a great academic school and we had all of those things that he could check off his list.”