Alabama Basketball Newcomer Breakdown: Clifford Omoruyi

Omoruyi, an all-conference level defender, looks to fill the hole on the defensive interior that plagued the Crimson Tide last season.
Clifford Omoruyi on his official visit to Alabama
Clifford Omoruyi on his official visit to Alabama / Omoruyi's Instagram page (@bigcliff77)

This is the first in an 8-part series where BamaCentral's Blake Byler will break down the numbers and the film to give you everything you need to know about each of Alabama basketball's 2024-25 newcomers. 

Though Alabama basketball made history last season advancing to the Final Four for the first time in school history, there was still a glaring weakness throughout the season in its defense.

By the end of the season, the Alabama defense ranked outside the top-100 in KenPom's defensive efficiency metric, and one of the biggest catalysts for that was its lack of an elite rim protector. After Charles Bediako unexpectedly stayed in the NBA Draft last summer, Nate Oats was left with a huge hole in the middle of his defense that caused issues time and time again throughout the season.

Enter, Clifford Omoruyi.

Omoruyi, a native of Nigeria and once 4-star recruit back in the recruiting class of 2020, played four years at Rutgers and developed into one of the best rim protectors in the entire country. He increased his block total every single year, capping out at a whopping 2.9 blocks per game this past season, his second season in a row being selected to the Big Ten All-Defensive team.

Omoruyi was one of the most sought-after names in the transfer portal, being pursued by the likes of North Carolina and Kansas State, but ultimately was won over by Oats and Alabama. Not only was Omoruyi one of the best players to enter the transfer portal this offseason, he also perfectly fills exactly what Alabama needed.

To put in perspective how dominant Omoruyi was as a shot blocker, his 2.9 blocked shots per game totaled to 93 blocked shots for the season. He blocked shots at a 12.7 percent rate, which ranked third among all players in college basketball.

What's more, Alabama totaled 133 blocks last season among all of its players. Alabama's top three shot-blockers, Grant Nelson, Nick Pringle and Mohamed Wague, combined for 99 blocks on the season, just six more than Omoruyi had by himself.

With Omoruyi in the middle protecting the interior of Alabama's defense, the Crimson Tide now has a true center with more than adequate size (6-foot-11, 240 pounds) to match up with some of the best bigs in the SEC like Auburn's Johni Broome and Arkansas' Jonas Aidoo.

When it comes to his offensive game, think about the way Bediako was used: a lob threat in pick-and-roll, a rim runner, and an excellent rebounder. Omoruyi has better athleticism and mobility than Bediako, and combining that with his strength results in explosive dunks and lobs from all over the court. Omoruyi averaged 10.4 points per game this past season while shooting 62 percent from the floor, with over two-thirds of his field goal attempts coming at the rim.

Alabama also struggled to rebound the ball last season on the defensive end, allowing the 277th-worst offensive rebounding rate in the country. Omoruyi fills that need as well, boasting a top-80 defensive rebound rate nationally as an individual and averaging 8.3 rebounds per game.

To fully visualize how Omoruyi will fit with Alabama, let's dive into some of his film from Rutgers last season, starting with his defense.

These first two clips showcase Omoruyi's discipline as a shot-blocker. In the first clip against Wisconsin, Omoruyi leaves his man on the block to help against the driving offensive player. As the offensive player pump fakes, Omoruyi doesn't bite on the fake or leave his feet, he instead waits and times his jump accurately to block the shot.

In the second clip, Omoruyi's teammate falls and gets beat on the perimeter, leaving the offensive player to drive straight at Omoruyi. Omoruyi leaves his feet, but stays vertical and keeps his arms vertical, meeting the Northwestern player mid-air and blocking the shot.

Both of these examples would be easily called fouls for less disciplined defensive players. It's a welcomed site for Alabama, as its interior defenders such as Nelson and Wague had some of the highest foul rates in the SEC. Omoruyi only averaged 2.6 fouls per game last season, a very solid mark for a rim protector.

In the next two clips, Omoruyi showcases his 7-foot-6 wingspan and how it allows him to block shots with incredible reach. When his teammate gets beat against Northwestern and the offensive player looks to have a clean look, Omoruyi's reach erases what seemed to be an open look.

Against Minnesota in the second clip, Omoruyi finds himself in an isolation post-up, something that's increasingly uncommon in modern college basketball but something that gave Alabama fits last season. With his reach, he's able to block a left-handed post hook at the release.

Omoruyi's presence should at the very least limit, and at the best completely eliminate the option for opposing teams to isolate the post 1-on-1 thanks to his rim protecting prowess.

Now, let's move into where Omoruyi can be utilized on the offensive end.

Omoruyi's athleticism makes him a consistent lob threat anywhere on the court. In these two clips, Omoruyi is utilized similarly to how Alabama has used its bigs in its offense in recent years.

In the first clip, Omoruyi hands the ball off to his guard in a dribble handoff (DHO) and rolls to the basket for an easy catch and slam. In the second clip, Omoruyi sets a screen and rolls towards the basket, receiving a nice pass for another dunk.

Alabama's offense consistently puts its bigs in DHOs and pick-and-roll actions, letting the guards make the read to finish at the rim, throw a lob/bounce pass to the big, or kick out to the perimeter for a shrink three. With a lob threat as good as Omoruyi, guards like Mark Sears and Aden Holloway will have plenty of options once they get into the teeth of the defense.

It's not just lobs either, even though those were the two examples in the clips. Omoruyi is a strong finisher off the glass, and can just as easily catch a bounce pass off a dive to the basket or a roll and be able to convert the easy two.

With the high-flying pace Alabama plays at, its bigs are going to need to be in great shape to run the floor throughout the game. Omoruyi is not only in great shape, but has great speed for his size.

In the above clip against Michigan, Omoruyi sprints from one end of the floor to the other, outrunning the opposing big man, and throws down a monster dunk after his guard finds him on the block. A more fluid athlete than Bediako, Omoruyi should be able to rack up dunks in transition by simply running the floor with pace.

Overall, Omoruyi fills multiple needs that Alabama was missing last season. With his long reach, you may see the Crimson Tide revert back to running drop coverage against ball screens, funneling all of the offensive traffic into Omoruyi as he blocks shot after shot on the interior. There's an argument to be made that he's the most important offseason addition Alabama made, and he should start at the center position from day one.

And for good measure, here's Omoruyi posterizing 2-time national player of the year Zach Edey to get you even more excited:

Blake Byler


Blake Byler is a staff writer for BamaCentral and primarily covers Alabama basketball and football. He has covered a wide variety of Crimson Tide sports since 2021, and began writing full-time for BamaCentral in 2023. You can find him on Twitter/X @blakebyler45.