Back in April, John Calipari headed up to Roselle, NJ to check out 2020 four-star center Cliff Omoruyi. On his way out, the Kentucky head coach extended a scholarship, making the 6-foot-10, 230-pound center just the tenth prospect overall and second center to receive an offer for the class of 2020.
But Omoruyi was quite different than most of Calipari’s past offers, especially this early in the process.
Originally from Nigeria, basketball is still very new for the four-star prospect, as he had only played in his first official game roughly three years ago in 2016. While the four-star prospect is an incredibly talented rebounder and possesses a motor unlike anyone else in the class, he is still extremely raw offensively and will need time to develop before he makes a major impact at the college level.
Still, though, Calipari was happy to take a chance on him. And it’s an offer that certainly means a lot to the 6-foot-10 big man.
In an interview with KSR at the NBPA Top 100 Camp in Charlottesville, VA, Omoruyi said that as a kid in Nigeria, Kentucky was one of the only schools he heard about and was able to follow. So when he came over to the states and finally started playing basketball, UK was certainly one of his favorite college programs.
“I was happy [to receive an offer] because Kentucky was one of my dream schools growing up,” he said. “Like when I was back in Nigeria, I used to hear most about Kentucky.”
At the time, KSR was told that Omoruyi was “emotional” upon receiving an offer. For a player that has had such a long journey to get where he is now, it was certainly special to hold a scholarship from one of the most prestigious schools in college basketball history.
When it comes to his meeting with Calipari for the first time, Omoruyi said he couldn’t contain his excitement, screaming and jumping up and down when the Kentucky head coach came to his school.
“Yeah, that was my first time meeting him in person,” the four-star big man said with a smile. “They told me it was some coach, but I started screaming a lot when [I realized it was Coach Cal.] I went crazy.”
According to Omoruyi, the very first thing Calipari asked him was about his academic situation and how he was doing in the classroom, a question he was happy to answer.
“The meeting was fun, he asked me how I was doing in school class-wise, if I’m a good student,” he said. “I told him that I average a 3.7 GPA, I’m a straight-A student.”
The next question? Omoruyi’s “why.” Why does he want to play basketball in college and then at the NBA level?
“He asked me why I play basketball, and I said that the biggest reason was that I wanted to give my mom and my family a better life,” he said.
Playing at Roselle Catholic in New Jersey, Omoruyi is close with former Kentucky guard and RCHS alum Isaiah Briscoe. In fact, the two have talked about the idea of the four-star center eventually becoming a Wildcat and how he’d find success in Lexington.
“[Briscoe] told me that if I go there, I’m going to work out to be a better player,” Omoruyi said. “I’m going to have to work out to impress everybody and it’s going to be difficult when I get there, if I go to Kentucky.”
And Briscoe isn’t the only Wildcat he has a relationship with.
Omoruyi said that he is also close with current Kentucky wing and former Roselle Catholic teammate Kahlil Whitney.
“That was my teammate, we used to throw each other alley-oops,” Omoruyi said with a laugh. “We used to turn up the dunks and layups and everything.”
The Kentucky target said that he caught up with Whitney about his time in Lexington earlier this week on Instagram Live.
“He said it’s fun [so far at Kentucky], they’re working out right now,” he said. “[Kahlil] said he was trying to get big like me”
When asked about Whitney’s game, the 6-foot-10 prospect said the current Wildcat is an elite athlete with a knack for getting his teammates better.
“Kahlil, he’s athletic,” Omoruyi said. “He’s fun to have as a teammate because he’s going to bring out the beast in you. In practice he pushes me really hard to [get better.]”
While it’s likely Whitney ends up being a one-and-done and won’t have the opportunity to play with Omoruyi in college, odds are pretty solid the four-star prospect will be following in his former teammates footsteps. He won’t admit that Kentucky is the runaway favorite, but if John Calipari wants him, I have a hard time believing he’ll turn him down when it comes time for a decision.