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Rutgers basketball in “strong position” for Top 50 recruit Cliff Omoruyi

Per Adam Zagoria, the Scarlet Knights are in the thick of it for the prized big man, plus other updates here.

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Cliff Omoruyi would be a program changing recruit for Rutgers.
Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the official start practice for the 2019-2020 season beginning next week and the state of the art practice facility now open, the Rutgers men’s basketball coaching staff has been very active on the recruiting trail. Since my last update from a couple weeks ago on recent offers and target updates, things have progressed with several top 2020 targets.

Adam Zagoria tweeted on Wednesday that Roselle Catholic’s big man Cliff Omoruyi had cancelled his planned visit to TCU for this coming weekend, just days after visiting Auburn. While that can sometimes mean a recruit is leaning towards the school they just visited, Zagoria threw this bombshell out that Rutgers fans should be excited about.

UConn being in a strong position is not surprising, as head coach Danny Hurley has hit the ground running on the recruiting trail since taking over the program last year. Despite the fact that Rutgers head coach Steve Pikiell and assistant Brandin Knight have worked extremely hard in recruiting Omoruyi over the years, it was a bit surprising to hear from Zagoria that they appear to be positioned so well entering his senior year. Kentucky and Memphis visited Roselle Catholic to see him just this past week. However, it has long been rumored that Omoruyi was seriously contemplating choosing a school close to home and Zagoria confirmed that is one of the reasons both UConn and Rutgers are in good shape.

The 3rd ranked player in New Jersey and 47th nationally in the 2020 class has been the top target for Rutgers in this recruiting cycle for years. Omoruyi holds almost two dozen offers and he has massive potential. He is still developing his game, particularly his jump shot, but he would be a force inside the paint immediately. His impact on Rutgers if he committed to coach Pikiell would be enormous. There is a long way to go as Omoruyi appears to be set to wait until the spring before signing. Showing progress on the court this season is important for many reasons, but if Rutgers can be even better than expected it certainly can’t hurt their chances with Omoruyi.

Another longtime Rutgers target is forward Zed Key, who is announcing his decision this Sunday per this article from Adam Zagoria. Assistant Steve Hayn visited Key last week at his high school, Long Island Lutheran. Zagoria included this tidbit and quote from Key from this article last week:

As for Rutgers, Key is impressed with the new RWJBarnabas Health Athletic Performance Center which houses a practice court and the new basketball facilities.

“They have no fours in my class, they just had somebody commit who’s like a five [Dean Reiber] but everyone’s leaving, everyone’s a senior, so I’ll come in and play right away,” he said. “And then also the coaching staff, the new practice gym, it’s exclusive.”

Since then, Key has cancelled planned visits later this month to Marquette and Florida. Aside from Rutgers, another local school that has pushed hard for Key is St. John’s. However, it appears Ohio State is the favorite, as Key recently visited there the first weekend of September and seemed to change course since last week in regard to his timeline by setting his announcement date for this Sunday. The 3-star prospect is a versatile, two-way player who would be a great fit at Rutgers, but they may lose him to another Big Ten foe. Update: Key committed to Ohio State on 9/22.

Coleman Hawkins is a another recruit that Rutgers offered during the summer of 2018 and have worked hard on the past year. Pikiell visited him this past week at Prolific Prep in California per Adam Zagoria. While one report indicated Hawkins was down to Rutgers, Illinois and San Diego State earlier this week, the 6’8” 3-star forward disputed that and said he hadn’t narrowed down his choices yet. However, after taking official visits to Rutgers in June and San Diego State the first week of September, Hawkins just took an official to Illinois last weekend. Notable recruiting writer Evan Daniels of 247 Sports, as well as four others, all selected Illinois as their crystal ball predictions for Hawkins in the past two days. Zagoria reported that Hawkins will announce his decision on Saturday afternoon. Update: Hawkins committed to Illinois on 9/21.

With 3-star stretch four Dean Reiber verbally committed to Rutgers’ 2020 class, there are several more spots to fill and the frontcourt is the priority. If Pikiell and the coaching staff were able to land Omoruyi, it would be a program changing commitment. Key and Hawkins would be major additions as well. Another big man Rutgers is involved with is Martice Mitchell, who holds multiple high major offers.

This was already going to be an important season for Rutgers in Pikiell’s rebuild, but in regard to generating even more positive momentum towards the 2020 class and beyond, it’s crucial they take another step forward on the court. The staff have been very active in visiting recruits the past two weeks. They will most certainly attempt to have as many targets as possible visit the new APC in the preseason to check out the facility and team in action on the practice court. This is an exciting time to be a Rutgers basketball fan, no doubt. I’ll have my annual state of the program article out next week ahead of the first practice of the season.