Roughly three months ago, Eugene Omoruyi’s basketball fate was a large question mark.
Without a college destination after his final year at Orangeville (Ont.) Prep in Canada, Omoruyi played in the Under Armour Association Finals in Atlanta over the summer.
With Steve Pikiell in attendance, Omoruyi’s play caught the eye of the first-year Rutgers coach. The interest manifested in an offer, and Omoruyi committed soon after in the first week of August.
“I really showed what I can do,” Omoruyi said. “So I really think (Rutgers) really liked that. The thing about my game is I’m really aggressive, and that’s what coach Pikiell said he’s looking for. I just found that (Rutgers) what the best fit for me.”
Omoruyi hails from Rexdale, an informally-defined district of Toronto. Despite the journey across international borders and into New Jersey, he said feels at home with family nearby in Newark and the support from his new teammates in Piscataway.
Plenty of factors came into play, but Omoruyi said the chance to play for Pikiell and the opportunity to play in the Big Ten were the main factors in his decision to come to Rutgers.
“I chose Rutgers because I like what coach Pikiell was saying — how the team was going to rebuild and become real good in the Big Ten,” said Omoruyi, who chose Rutgers over finalists Loyola-Chicago and Siena. “The Big Ten has been one of my favorite conferences since being a kid.”
As Omoruyi grew up a fan of Big Ten basketball, he fell in love with how aggressive and versatile Draymond Green played at Michigan State.
From there, Omoruyi modeled his approach and execution around Green, who still brings the same all-around balance to the floor with the Golden State Warriors.
“As everyone knows, my favorite player is Draymond,” Omoruyi said. “After Draymond left Michigan State, I have always watched every video about him. I played my game around him, so he’s a guy that I really look at.”
At 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds, Omoruyi’s stature sizes up with his 6-foot-7, 230-pound NBA idol. With the focus on his all-around game, Omoruyi said he doesn’t classify with a specific position.
“Out of high school, I never really determined a position,” he said. “I saw myself doing everything — passing, shoot a bit, rebounding, doing all the tough stuff, the little stuff that people don’t really notice. I like doing all of that.”
An overlooked ball handler, Omoruyi said his early work is with assistant coach Brandin Knight and the guards makes a difference.
“I’ve been working with the guards a lot, to work on that because my passing is what people don’t really notice about me,” he said. “I can pass the ball, so I’ve been working with the guards and Brandin Knight’s been helping me with that.”
Omoruyi added that the mentorship under Nigel Johnson and Corey Sanders adds to his improvement in the backcourt.
“It’s been real good (working with Johnson and Sanders) because they’re challenging me to become better,” said Omoruyi, who added he watched highlights of Sanders throughout high school. “They’re both great leaders and they both have taken the role to mentor me to become a better player, so I really appreciated that.”
With the ability to pass, slash and even play around the rim in the post, Omoruyi gives Rutgers versatile size and athleticism.
But the one area of his game he said he needs to work on is his outside shot.
“I’ve been in the gym a whole lot working on my shooting, getting a lot of reps everyday trying to get better on my shooting,” Omoruyi said. “The coaches started to notice that I can shoot it a bit, so I’m just trying to work on that the most right now.”
With reinforcements across the board for Rutgers on a revamped roster, it remains to be seen where Omoruyi will contribute on the floor.
But Rutgers did sign him with the intention to make an immediate impact, and that is exactly what Omoruyi said he believes he can do.
“The goal is to just do everything I was brought here to do,” he said. “Don’t do anything new, just stick to the plan, do what I do and then over the years, I can become better at what I do and I can show people what I can really do.
“(Rutgers fans can expect) hard work and come on the court and really grinding it out, really (getting after) loose balls. Just know Eugene’s going to be down there getting that. That’s really what I do.”