For the past few weeks, there has been talk in recruiting circles that Cliff Omoruyi — one of the few frontcourt prospects in the 2020 class with a UK scholarship offer — might try to graduate from high school this summer and play college basketball next season.
Omoruyi — a 6-foot-10 post player originally from Nigeria — told the Herald-Leader at NBPA Top 100 Camp that he will not go that route and plans to stick in the 2020 class for one more year of high school.
Talented as he is, that’s likely the better path for Omoruyi to see more court time this season. Though a season of practice against the likes of Nick Richards, EJ Montgomery and Nate Sestina might be beneficial to his development, any expectations of Omoruyi making a major impact on a possible Final Four team in the 2019-20 season would have to be tempered.
Rivals.com placed Omoruyi at No. 54 overall in its new rankings for the 2020 class, and national analyst Corey Evans had great things to say about his evolving game and upside. Making an impact at a place like Kentucky next season, however, is a lot to ask.
“I think it would be minimal,” Evans told the Herald-Leader. “His skill set is still developing. … That’s a big step. People don’t realize how big of a step that is — not just reclassifying and speeding up the process by a whole year — but also going to the highest level of basketball to play for a guy like John Calipari and to be relied upon for 20, 25 minutes a game against the best, that are going to be giving you the best. That’s difficult.
“So, if that does happen, I think it’s 10 minutes, maybe five points and four rebounds and bring some energy.”
That’s not to downplay Omoruyi’s ability. He plays for the same Roselle Catholic (N.J.) program that produced Isaiah Briscoe and Kahlil Whitney, his teammate from last season. He suits up for New York Lightning on the highly competitive Nike circuit, where he averaged 11.8 points and 6.5 rebounds while blocking 22 shots in 13 games this spring.
“He’s a physical monster,” Evans said. “He’s 6-foot-10 with a 7-5 wingspan. Granite-sized shoulders. He just does what he has to do, and that’s protect the bucket, rim-run, drop-off score. You talk about energy guys, that’s the kind of guy we’re talking about.”
Omoruyi landed a UK scholarship offer during an impromptu meeting with Calipari when the UK coach came to instruct at a Roselle Catholic basketball clinic this spring. When they sat down to talk, Omoruyi said Calipari asked what kind of student he was. “I told him I have a 3.7 GPA,” he replied. Cal asked why Omoruyi played basketball, and the young prospect said he wanted to help his family and live a better life.
He was excited to get the UK offer.
“That was my first time meeting him in person,” Omoruyi said. “I was happy, because that was one of my dream schools. When I was back in Nigeria, I used to watch all the schools. You hear most about Kentucky.”
Omoruyi knows both Briscoe and Whitney well, and he’s already talked to the former and future Wildcat about possibly playing for UK. Briscoe told him that “if you go there, you’re going to work hard,” and Whitney, who recently arrived in Lexington, has been learning the truth of that over the past couple of weeks.
“They’re having fun,” Omoruyi said, noting that he had spoken with Whitney on the eve of Top 100 Camp. “He’s working hard. He says he’s trying to get big like me.”
The UK recruiting target offered up a big smile while talking about his former high school teammate.
“We used to throw alley-oops to each other in practice. We used to turn up the dunks in the layup line,” he said. “He’s athletic. He’s fun to have as a teammate. He’s going to bring out the beast in you. During practice, he’d be pushing me to dominate.”
With Whitney projected as a possible one-and-done NBA Draft pick, Omoruyi might not get to team up with him again in college, even if he does pick Kentucky. The reclassification talk might continue this summer, but Omoruyi said he has no recruiting visits scheduled and sounded genuinely decided on his plans to stick in the 2020 class.
“The last I heard is that they’re still set on going 2020,” Evans said. “But, as we know, when pressure comes, anything can happen.”