In 1650, Thomas Fuller wrote, “It’s darkest before the dawn” in his travelogue about the holy land. Well let’s face it, if you are a Scarlet Knights fan, it seems like night is unyielding and the dawn a mere dream. The panic was palpable after last week’s news that Paul Mulcahy was entering the transfer portal and officially leaving a Rutgers program he helped rebuild over his prior four years in Piscataway. This followed news of Cam Spencer entering the portal and ultimately joining a championship Uconn squad. One thing we have learned with coach Pike and his staff, is that no matter how dark the dawn, the sun always rises in Piscataway.
Well, the sun is definitely shining today as Monroe College (New Rochelle, NY) transfer Emmanuel Ogbole accepted an offer to join the Scarlet Knights for the 2023 season and will have three seasons of eligibility left. Ogbole chose Rutgers over rival Seton Hall after both schools had extended offers to him last fall. Ogbole joins four-star forward Gavin Griffiths, three-star guard JaMichael Davis and UMass transfer Noah Fernandes as the new faces on the 2023-24 roster.
Ogbole is a 6-foot-11, 242-pound center from Aune-Adoka, Nigeria and attended the Excel Model Secondary School for high school in Nigeria before moving to the United States.
“Emmanuel is a terrific addition to the Rutgers basketball family. Emmanuel is well-coached from a great program run by Jeff Brustad. We have added another high-character individual to our program who is humble, appreciative, and hard-working. He has great hands, terrific athleticism, great size, and his best basketball ahead of him. We’re looking forward to having him on the court in November.”
Head Coach Steve Pikiell (courtesy Rutgers Athletics)
In 24 games with a Monroe College squad that went 28-4 last season, Ogbole averaged 12.3 points per game on 69.3% shooting (6th in the nation), pulled in 8.3 rebounds and averaged 2 blocks. His 19 steals are proof of his great hands in the paint and Rutgers fans can expect him to finish around the rim when given the opportunity, an agonizing issue that plagued the team last season. Free throw shooting is the one area for improvement as he shot 49.5% from the charity line.
Having another big-time defensive rebounder inside should help Clifford Omoruyi immensely. Coach Pikiell can now play two big men down low when the situation warrants. This will prevent teams from constantly double and triple teaming Cliff and should give him space when both bigs are on the floor together. More importantly, the team finally has depth at the center position when Big Cliff needs a breather or sits with early foul trouble.
“His stature alone is going to provide a lot of things for Rutgers defensively. He’s physical and he can run the floor north-to-south. He’s a great athlete that is improving in all areas, especially offensively. He’s got a great work ethic so I’m sure that Rutgers is going to take him to the next level. The Big Ten is a physical conference and I think that plays into his hands a little bit. Experience is going to key for him at the next level.”
Monroe College Head Coach Jeff Brustad (courtesy Rutgers Athletics)
Ogbole attended the 64-50 Scarlet Knight’s victory over Maryland last Jan. 4 at Jersey Mike’s Arena.
“I saw the chemistry the team had. Especially the players who weren’t playing on the bench. I really liked the fans, and they made me feel that it was such a lovely place. I loved seeing Rutgers Nation on that day and they made me realize I want to make history when I am there.”
Emmanuel Ogbole (courtesy Rutgers Athletics)
Rutgers now has two Nigerian big men on the team, along with sophomore Antwone Woolfolk to solidify a front court that now looks downright imposing. Like Omoruyi, Ogbole takes great pride in his defense, which has been a staple of this program under coach Pikiell. Ogbole has already stated his goal is to lead the nation in rebounds. That has to be music to Rutgers Nation’s ears.
“I love blocking shots and rebounding. My priority is my defense. After that, the scoring will come naturally. Having two Nigerians on the team I know the bonding will be great, our charisma, don’t you worry you’ll see what’s going to happen!”
Emmanuel Ogbole (Emmanuel Ogbole)
Like Omoruyi and Woolfolk, Ogbole can run the floor end to end. With Simpson and Fernandes in the backcourt, Rutgers looks primed to run an up tempo offense we haven’t seen since the Corey Sanders days. But make no mistake, the Nigerian center takes pride in his D first and foremost. Watching his highlight reel, Ogbole is a relentless rebounder on both ends who has a nice soft touch off the glass around the rim. I personally love the way he runs the floor.
Now we see what final moves the coaching staff makes. I would expect a shooting guard and a forward for depth with three scholarships remaining open, the final one usually awarded to a walk-on.