Without a doubt the player I was most looking forward to see coming into this season was Eugene Omoruyi. How would the sophomore respond in his second year of Big Ten action? As we cross over into 2018, we take a look at his progress through seventeen games and the future of one of the teams most dynamic players.
The 6’7’’, 234 lbs forward came into the Friday contest having already drawn nine charges on the season. He would add two more by the end of the night for an impressive eleven drawn charges on the season. ESPN analyst, College Hall of Famer and Plainfield, NJ native Jay Williams, also commented on Omoruyi’s soccer background and how big men coming from the soccer field are able to move their feet so well. The crux of taking a charge is for the defender to beat a driving offensive player to a spot and plant their feet (no shuffling). It sounds a lot easier than it is but for big men it can be difficult. Eugene has shown a knack and willingness to embrace these plays, especially late in games.
The more and more I watch Omoruyi, the more I realize the argument for him starting or coming off the bench is simply irrelevant. Much like Mike Williams, his role is not diminished simply because he’s not part of the starting five. More importantly is Eugene’s role on this team and one that I think has become much more defined. Inserting him into the starting lineup over what would most likely be Mamadou Doucoure really isn’t needed at this point. Eugene plays a defined role coming off the bench. The team often seems energized when he’s comes on the court. Not to mention with Doucoure struggling to stay out of foul trouble there’s no doubt we’ll still get a hefty helping of Eugene whether he starts or not. Right now the dynamic of the current have proven successful. Yes, they had the two losses to end 2017, but overall they’ve played well together and now have two very good victories under their belts.
Work In Progress
Omoruyi is not a finished product and will need to continue to improve on several areas such as free throws and showing up each night on a consistent basis. Although he has struggled at the free throw line, shooting just .486, he shares the team lead for free throw attempts at 72 which is already more than double is total from a year ago.
He also has shown an ability to hit clutch free throws down the stretch, knocking down two late game shots in the two upsets versus Seton Hall and most recently Wisconsin. He’s at his best when playing against top talent but needs to bring that same game regardless of opponent. Purdue is just loaded squad so I don’t put much into that loss but the Stony Brook and Hartford losses he scored a combined 4 points and committed 7 fouls. He did contribute on the boards as always for a combined 11 rebounds and 4 blocks which is a part of his game that is very underrated.
Overall, he has improved tremendously and now ranks amongst the team leaders in rebounds (2nd), assists (3rd) and blocks (tied for 1st). Compared to last season he has seen an increase in almost every statistic including points, rebounds, assists and blocks. To no ones surprise his average minutes per game are up 20.7 compared to just 12 minutes per game a year ago. Omoruyi should also serve as a great example for recruits and to the ability of Coach Pikiell and his coaching staff to develop players under the program.
Showing Up When It Counts
His first real breakout game came against Florida State where he put up a season high 22 points. He followed up against two very difficult opponents in Minnesota and Michigan State but was still able to put up 11 points in each contest. Seton Hall would be arguably his best game ending up one rebound shy of a double-double. Still the stat line was a very respectable 10 points, 9 boards, 1 block and 2 steals. He’s also shown a knack for late game heroics. Just this past Friday in the upset victory over Wisconsin, Omoruyi was able draw a late game charge, and knocking down two critical free throws to seal the win. As mentioned he has struggled against some of the lesser competition but I think that’s more of a reflection how far he has come and the higher expectations that come with that marked progress. But with Rutgers in the heart of Big Ten, Omoruyi will surely be an integral piece of this team and one that they are now able to count on late in games.