Former Rutgers captain Eugene Omoruyi has officially flown the coop, announcing on his Instagram account on Monday night that he was committing to the Oregon Ducks. It took just 12 days from when Omoruyi announced he was transferring from Rutgers to make his decision. He visited Texas A&M first, before deciding on Oregon after his recent official visit to the program. Per transfer rules, he will have to sit next season before playing his final year of eligibility in the 2020-2021 season.
At the end of the day, it wasn’t about playing close to home, as Eugene, Oregon is over five times farther away than New Brunswick, New Jersey from Omoruyi’s hometown of Rexdale, just outside Toronto, Canada. It wasn’t about playing with his best friend, Kalif Young, at Providence, which is what the initial thought was rumored to be why he was leaving. It turns out it was for less sentimental reasons.
Jerry Carino reported per Rutgers sources that the only reason Omoruyi gave for wanting to leave was to go somewhere he thought gave him a good chance of playing in the NCAA Tournament in his final season. Oregon fits the bill, having waded into the madness of March on college basketball’s biggest stage in six of the last seven seasons under head coach Dana Altman. They made the Sweet Sixteen this past season and the Final Four in 2017.
Tampering has been rumored, but as Carino has written, its extremely hard to prove and unlikely Rutgers would pursue.
The reality is that Omoruyi has left for what he has deemed greener pastures. It’s a bitter pill to swallow for Rutgers fans and the program. The leading scorer and rebounder from last season came to Piscataway with few options out of high school, choosing Rutgers in August during the first summer that Steve Pikiell was in charge of the program. His 247 Sports recruiting profile cites Rutgers as his lone Division I offer.
Omoruyi improved a great deal during his three years at Rutgers, flourishing under the coaching of Pikiell and former assistant Jay Young. In fact, Pikiell named Omoruyi the most improved player the past two years and he had appeared to become the heart and soul of the team. Primed to lead Rutgers into next season with legitimate postseason expectations for the first time in over a decade, the former captain chose flight over fight.
Omoruyi blew up three years of love and goodwill within the fan base in just two weeks time. I’ve been adamant that while as Rutgers fans it’s fair to be upset, respecting his decision is a must. That’s still the case, because ultimately it’s his life and decision to make. However, choosing Oregon makes it clear that Omoruyi didn’t value what he had at Rutgers and what he helped build. He took the perceived easy way out, opting to play for a program with shiny uniforms, state of the art everything and a winning culture already established.
He leaves behind a mostly young core of talented players, mixed in with a couple of high potential veterans taking the court next season for the first time at Rutgers. Under Steve Pikiell, the program has steadily improved over the past three years. Eugene Omoruyi leaving for Oregon doesn’t change the fact that the future is still trending up for next season and beyond. For the players that remain, his departure will only add more fuel to their fire to make Rutgers a winning program and return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three decades. Who knows, perhaps it will lead to a reunion on college basketball’s biggest stage two March’s from now.