Hearing their name called on NBA Draft night is a dream for high-level basketball players everywhere.
Yet, for Eugene Omoruyi, he didn’t have that luxury. Instead, he signed a two-way deal with the Dallas Mavericks as an undrafted rookie after the 2021 draft. And with the NBA Summer League tipping off on Aug. 9 for the Mavericks, he stands ready to prove that his time in the league won’t be an aberration but that he belongs in the NBA.
“[I] Just want to win and compete and play hard and showcase my game,” Omoruyi said after practice on Thursday. “I am a dog. I like to go out there and compete on the highest level. Anything it takes to win, and anything it takes to help my teammates, is what I’m going to do. The guys already realize that. I take a lot of charges, so just to come out there and compete and win is big for me. I am ready to go already.”
Omoruyi may not have heard his name called on draft night, but due to his high level of play in college, he had a bevy of teams calling for his services.
Though he fielded the calls from other teams, he chose Dallas because of the organization’s values and family feel. Playing for the Mavericks, to Omoruyi, felt like the right decision and the right system for him to fit into.
“When I came here for my predraft workout, I loved the staff. Everything was great. They really welcomed me,” Omoruyi said. “The system here is great, and I want to fit into that system… I’m happy I am here.”
Omoruyi’s exact fit within the Mavericks’ system remains a bit unknown. He’s listed as a forward on the Summer League roster, but to him, his game isn’t defined by the position he plays. He prides himself on the ability to play all over the floor. Versatility is one of his strong suits. In the NBA, he doesn’t want that to change.
“I categorize myself as positionless,” Omoruyi said.
In college, he was known for his adept defensive abilities. And as he matured, his offensive game followed. Increasing his scoring average year by year. In his senior year, playing for Oregon at that point, Omoruyi averaged 17 points per game along with 1.5 steals.
That 17-point per game output was a four-point increase from his junior year average of 13.8. And to score more points, he didn’t sacrifice efficiency, shooting 47 percent from the field and 37 percent from three.
Omoruyi is no stranger to development. He started playing basketball in the 10th grade, much later than most kids with NBA dreams. And behind, or not, he chose to commit himself to the game of basketball. Working tirelessly to become the best version of who he is as a ballplayer.
That work paid off with a chance to play at Rutgers, where over the course of three seasons, Omoruyi carved out a large role for himself as a defender and opportunistic scorer on the team.
Mavericks Summer League head coach Greg St. Jean actually had the opportunity to coach against Omoruyi in college. St. Jean was an assistant coach at St. John’s University when the two schools played each other. That background has allowed St. Jean to have an inside look at Omoruyi’s game, saying that “he’s just gotten better every time I’ve seen him.”
He would add that “one of his greatest strengths, other than his athletism, and his competitiveness is his versatility, defensively. At the professional level, who you can guard, and how many positions you can guard, allows you to play different positions.”
The Mavericks Summer League goal for Omoruyi is to test out that versatility by putting him in different situations every game. And though it will be difficult to adapt on the fly, Omoruyi says he’s up for the challenge the Mavericks are giving him.
“it’s pretty seamless,” he said. “I am ready to go. I am ready to win. That’s just the type of competitor I am.”
Summer League grants Omoruyi an opportunity to prove himself. So far, he’s been up for the challenge and impressing people within the organization along the way. With games starting the week of Aug. 8, he’s ready to show everyone outside of the organization just how good he can be.
“I’m just happy to be here,” he said. “I am just ready to play Summer League in Vegas at this point.”
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Feature image via Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY.