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Top 50 recruit Cliff Omoruyi could be the key piece to getting Rutgers basketball to next level

Steve Pikiell has made the talented big man the top priority of the 2020 class for a reason.

HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL: JAN 18 Spalding Hoophall Classic Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Rutgers men’s basketball team has a much needed weekend off, but its a crucial few days ahead nonetheless. Priority recruit Cliff Omoruyi, a consensus 4-star and Top 50 national recruit from Roselle Catholic, took his official visit to Rutgers on Friday and Saturday.

Steve Pikiell and his coaching staff have recruited the class of 2020 big man almost since Omoruyi began playing organized basketball, which is only a handful of years. He is a gifted athlete and powerful player who plays extremely hard on both ends of the floor. Omoruyi is explosive around the rim and has has a vertical jump that puts him well above the rim. He is a solid passer for a big man and runs the floor extremely well.

Omoruyi is an extremely raw player but has a limitless ceiling, which is why he is such a sought after prospect. His potential to defend in the paint and around the rim at the next level, as well as becoming a polished post player on the offensive end are areas he needs to develop.

Omoruyi announced a top five of Auburn, Kentucky, UConn, Arizona State, and Rutgers a few months ago. He has already taken official visits to Auburn and Arizona State, while he is expected to take visits to UConn and Kentucky sometime in March. While the big man tweeted he was announcing soon, the thought around recruiting circles is that a decision will come in April.

Rutgers already has three recruits signed in the 2020 class, each of whom are 3-star prospect per 247 Sports. It’s currently ranked 61st in the country and 11th in the Big Ten. They will join a core from a rotation this season that includes a freshman, four sophomores and two juniors set to return.

Dean Reiber is a stretch four who is playing the best basketball of his high school career down the stretch of his senior season per this article from Friday. He scored 29 points, 6 blocks, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists in a North Carolina state tournament game this week.

Mawot Mag is tough, athletic wing who could be a lockdown defender and rim attacking weapon in transition at the next level. His high school team, Prolific Prep in California, has national championship aspirations this season and has includes the top prospect in the 2020 class (Jalen Green), as well as players committed to Texas Tech, Georgia Tech and Illinois. He scored 10 points on senior night this past week.

Oskar Palmquist is the best shooter of the class and plays for the Swedish youth national team. He enrolled early and is already gaining experience with the program.

Omoruyi would be a class changing addition and change perception of the program long term in New Jersey recruiting circles. While Pikiell did a great job landing Ron Harper Jr. and Paul Mulcahy in the past two recruiting cycles, both were ranked 7th in the state, but neither were elite national prospects. Rutgers hasn’t landed one since McDonald’s All-American Mike Rosario over a decade ago. Omoruyi, who is ranked 41st nationally and 3rd in New Jersey in the 2020 class, would signify the first true big fish that Pikiell has landed on the recruiting trail. It would be a major statement across the state in addition to accomplishing the first winning season in 14 years.

Arizona State assistant coach Rasheen Davis recruited Omoruyi when he was at UMass and is a former classmate of one of Omoruyi’s guardians, making that a valuable relationship in his recruitment. Rutgers has the advantage of recruiting him since the beginning, being local and having a great engineering school, something Omoruyi has said is important to him. It’s fair for Rutgers fans to be skeptical of the program’s chances with Kentucky involved, as we’ve seen plenty of blue bloods take the best New Jersey prospects for many years, including the Wildcats. Danny Hurley is also on the hunt and competing against his brother Bobby for Omoruyi, making this as competitive a recruiting battle as Pikiell has been involved in since coming to Rutgers.

Rutgers fans did their best earlier this season when the RAC faithful serenaded Omoruyi with a unified “We Want Cliff” chant.

Omoruyi plays in the Union County Final on Saturday night at Kean University and The Riot Squad, as well as other fans, are rumored to be making the trip to show the talented big man how appreciated he would be at Rutgers.

I’ve always believed it was “when” and not “if” regarding Pikiell ultimately breaking through and landing a top local recruit. He and his staff have always been resourceful on the recruiting trail and have proven to be solid developmental coaches as well. They do their due diligence and have shown steady progress in turning Rutgers around. Landing a player of Omoruyi’s talent and ceiling has the potential to change the program for the better for years to come.

When Pikiell arrived, the program was a national laughingstock on the court and had little presence or credibility on the recruiting trail. Armed with a contract extension, the first winning season in over a decade and postseason play a certainty in March, Rutgers might finally be close to landing the most important piece to the puzzle that could ultimately push the program into national prominence.