On Saturday evening, a group of Rutgers men's basketball fans, known as the Riot Squad, arrived at Kean to show its support for Roselle Catholic’s Cliff Omoruyi. He was playing in the Union County Tournament final against The Patrick School, where his team lost 56-42.
Omoruyi, a four-star recruit who is ranked in the top 50 nationally, is on the top of the Scarlet Knights’ (18-11, 9-9) wishlist this upcoming offseason. He announced a few months ago that the five schools he is considering are Rutgers, Arizona State, Auburn, Kentucky and UConn.
Amid reports that Omoruyi had officially visited the Knights on Friday and Saturday, the Riot Squad took it upon itself to give its own recruiting efforts as well. Several times throughout the game, the group of fans stood up in its scarlet gear and said “We want Cliff"! The group even held up a Rutgers flag.
Many members of the Knights noticed, including junior guard Geo Baker, who posted a video of the fans on his Instagram story. Head coach Steve Pikiell, sophomore guard Ron Harper Jr. and junior guard Joey Downes were also in attendance to support Omoruyi.
Despite the support, Omoruyi had a game to forget. He scored just 3 points, although he did lead the team with 11 rebounds and three blocks. Many were surprised that the 6-foot-10-inch, 230-pound center did not dominate around the rim offensively like he usually does.
Several Riot Squad members gave their thoughts on what happened.
“(Omoruyi) was overshadowed by superior talent, but still had a few good moments,” said Gabe Vinogradov, a Rutgers Business School junior. “He’s got some stuff to work on but is still a good recruit for us.”
With senior forward Shaq Carter graduating, Rutgers needs to acquire depth at the position for next season to complement sophomore center Myles Johnson.
Not only would Omoruyi significantly bolster the position, but it would also show that the Knights are finally able to pull elite New Jersey recruits. Throughout the years, Rutgers has routinely been bypassed by local players for higher-revered programs. Perhaps with the Knights now on the NCAA Tournament bubble, they are a more attractive destination for the talent of the future.
Pikiell’s recent contract extension through the 2025-26 season also shows program stability, something Rutgers was a stranger to throughout the last three decades. Now that recruits know they have a dependable coach they can rely on, it can only help the Knights attract some of these players.
One thing is for sure: Rutgers fans have been persistent. Even with Omoruyi not having a banner game, they stayed and cheered for him until the final whistle.
“It’s important to note that Rutgers fans stayed until the end,” said Adeola Kukoyi, a School of Arts and Sciences junior. “It shows that we’re there for (Omoruyi) through thick and thin, whether he plays well or has a tough game.”
No matter where Omoruyi ultimately decides to commit, he knows that he has a passionate and consistent local fan base in his corner. Back on Jan. 15, he attended the Knights’ 59-50 win over Indiana at the Rutgers Athletic Center. During that game, the crowd chanted its appreciation for him as well.
With Omoruyi rumored to make a decision sometime over the next few weeks, it would behoove Rutgers to do the best it can in its Tournament push. A March Madness trip would solidify its status as a rising program and possibly cement it as the top candidate.
“It was great seeing scarlet around the arena (at Kean) and (Omoruyi) is an athletic freak,” said Andrew Galvach, a Rutgers Business School sophomore.
The Knights can only hope that Omoruyi will wear scarlet himself come November.
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