Rutgers basketball fans awake this Wednesday morning to shocking news, as team captain and leading scorer and rebounder Eugene Omoruyi has announced his intentions to transfer from the program. The revelation occurred around midnight via Omoruyi’s Instagram account. Here is his post:
Per a source, it was confirmed to me that Eugene Omoruyi informed head coach Steve Pikiell of his intent to enter the transfer portal late Tuesday night. Late Wednesday afternoon, Pikiell issued the following statement:
“Eugene Omoruyi informed me last night of his intent to enter the transfer portal. He has the right as a student-athlete to pursue this option. Eugene has been a dedicated and valuable member of the program who exemplifies the qualities of a Scarlet Knight. Eugene’s contributions on the banks have been immeasurable. We support Eugene and wish him and his family nothing but the best.”
On the surface, Omoruyi’s decision to transfer seems puzzling. As a little known recruit, Omoruyi has flourished under head coach Steve Pikiell and developed into a legitimate Big Ten forward. He has been a key piece to the rebuilding of Rutgers basketball and the program was poised to potentially have its best season in over a decade, going into next year with serious postseason aspirations. He is a returning captain, is the heart and soul of the team, and could become an all-conference player next season. Also, Omoruyi would have to sit out next season per transfer rules, unless there were circumstances unknown that would qualify him to receive a hardship waiver from the NCAA, which certainly isn’t ever a given.
The timing is also bizarre. The season has been over for two plus months, so deciding to leave now has limited his options for potential landing spots due to scholarships still available, as many transfers have found new homes.
Highlighting how this move was so unexpected within the program, Rutgers issued a press release on Tuesday announcing its participation in the Naismith Classic next season versus St. Bonaventure in Toronto, Canada, close to Omoruyi’s hometown of Rexdale. Pikiell said the following in the release:
“We look forward to bringing the Rutgers brand north, where our senior team captain Eugene Omoruyi will compete before his family and hometown crowd.”
Omoruyi stated in his Instagram post that he did request his release from Pikiell and the coaching staff, so that must have occurred later on Tuesday, which was confirmed to me after publishing this story. Oddly, Omoruyi misspelled Pikiell’s name in the post. Whatever Omoruyi’s reasons are for wanting to leave, he is owed a debt of gratitude for what he has given to the program these past three years.
If Omoruyi does in fact leave the program, it’s a massive blow for next season. The rising senior led Rutgers with 13.7 points and 7.2 rebounds last season. He also averaged 2.4 assists per game and drew a team high in charges (approximately 20) for a second straight year. He is clearly the best frontcourt player on the roster. His defense, leadership and toughness will be sorely missed.
Omoruyi leaving would open a second scholarship for next season.
For now, reality bites once again for Rutgers fans, just as optimism surrounding the program had reached a peak this offseason.
For my ten thoughts on what’s next for Rutgers basketball following this news, click here.