Rutgers Basketball: Incoming Freshmen Class Impact

Cliff Omoruyi, Team Ramsey (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Cliff Omoruyi, Team Ramsey (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

Rutgers basketball is in a prime position to build off of the momentum they put together in the 2019-2020 season, but how will their incoming freshmen help the team?

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights put together a recruiting class this year that was leaps and bounds better than what RU fans are accustomed to. Rutgers’ 2020 recruiting class, which is ranked 36th in the nation according to 247Sports, features four frontcourt players, who come in just as two frontcourt players depart from New Brunswick.

Forward Akwasi Yeboah will be leaving, Yeboah was a starting grad transfer who was a Scarlet Knight captain this past season. Another captain who will not be back next year is senior center Shaq Carter, who was also a starter. Both departures signal a loss of leadership and efficiency on offense.

Carter had the highest field goal percentage on the team during conference play this past year at 57%. Yeboah may have been the most complete and efficient shooter on the squad though, shooting 44% from the field, 36% from three, and 78% from the free-throw line.

The most notable counter to those departures, however, is center Cliff Omoruyi. Omoruyi is a 6’10,” 230 lb defensive monster, who will be joining Rutgers for his freshman season in 2020-21.

Coming from New Jersey’s own, Roselle Catholic, Omoruyi was a huge get for the Scarlet Knights. He’s the second-highest-rated recruit in RU basketball history, and the 8th best center recruit in the country. He was a top 3 player in the Garden State, which is impressive considering the amount of talent available in New Jersey.

Rutgers out-recruited Arizona State and Auburn to get him, which was tough considering Auburn was a 2019 Final Four team and finished in the top 20 of last year’s final AP Poll. As for Arizona State, they were the front-runners due to Omoruyi’s connections to assistant coach Rasheen Davis and the strong recruiter that is ASU Head Coach Bobby Hurley. This shows how much Rutgers basketball has turned around over the past few seasons.

The entire coaching staff, as well as fan favorite and captain Geo Baker and fellow backcourt starting five player Ron Harper Jr., showed up to this season’s Union Country Tournament Final, as hey attended to support Omoruyi. This is the type of move that the Mike Krzyzewski’s, Bobby Hurley’s, John Calipari’s, Roy Williams,’ and all the other great recruiters make. Head coach Steve Pikiell is becoming a very nice recruiter himself, which will put the Scarlet Knights in a good position moving forward.

Interestingly, they were followed by a strong set of Rutgers fans who notably and audibly made sure the whole arena knew they were there for Omoruyi during the Final.

“It was really cool when they were chanting for me,” said Omoruyi. “It made me feel special. It made me feel like people wanted me.”

He’s not a finished product in terms of his offense, but he’ll have the time to develop. There’s a silver lining in finding guys that still haven’t hit their full potential when it comes to college basketball. With that, Pikiell knows Omoruyi will be there to stay, and won’t lose him to the NBA Draft after just one year.

He’ll have time to work on Omoruyi, and he’ll also have time to work on the 6’8,” sharpshooting small forward Oskar Palmquist. Pikiell has already been working on Palmquist, who enrolled in January (redshirted).

“He knows how to play and shoots it just like I thought. I love the fact that he is off the charts athletically, too. I knew he was a good athlete, and he is gonna get stronger and bigger, hasn’t spent a lot of time in the weight room,” said Pikiell.

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The other two incoming freshmen include power forwards Mawot Mag and Dean Reiber. Mag has a dream build for a college basketball player (6’7,” 215 lb), and holds a reputation of playing with a hard-nosed grinder mentality up and down the court. Reiber will look to make an impact on defense, as his 6’10” length led to 1.4 blocks per game in his last year of high school ball at Northwest Guilford (Greensboro, North Carolina).

Omoruyi is a four-star athlete and the other three check-in with three stars.

The frontcourt depth Rutgers is gaining is going to be huge, but I don’t expect any of these guys to start come the first game of this season. However, they can all still contribute, with Omoruyi having the potential to make a major impact on the team early.

Next. Rutgers Basketball: Steve Pikiell should be taken seriously. dark

Rutgers really came around last season, and is continuing to trend up in the talent they’re reeling into Piscataway in 2020.