BYLUKAS WEESE | COMPLEX CANADA
Eugene Omoruyi’s face brightened up when asked about his teammate, Chris Duarte.
“That’s my brother,” Omoruyi said.
Omoruyi and Duarte have a ton in common. They are both Canadian, even though Omoruyi knows more about the country’s history than Duarte.
They both continue the tradition of Canadians playing for the Oregon Ducks, succeeding players such as Dillon Brooks and Chris Boucher. They share the lead for Oregon’s scoring, both averaging 16.7 points per game.
After spending three years at Rutgers, the small forward relishes the opportunity to play in his inaugural NCAA Tournament with the Ducks.
“He’s all about winning,” said Oregon Ducks head coach Dana Altman. “He’s all about the team. That’s what coaches value and what people at the next level value. They want winners. They want guys that will do whatever it takes to help the team win.”
Omoruyi is one of 25 Canadians competing in this year’s NCAA Tournament. Born in Benin City, Nigeria, Eugene, and his mother, Jane-Edo, emigrated to Canada when he was a one-year-old, searching for a better life. His father, Frank, arrived three years later, with Eugene’s baby sister. Growing up in Rexdale, Ontario, Omoruyi considered himself Nigerian-Canadian. He’s grateful to Canada for its diverse culture, easing the transition for his family.
“When it comes to immigration, Canada allows for a lot of cultures to come through,” Omoruyi said on the Mighty Oregon Podcast. “Once Nigerians found out about Canada, they welcomed us with open arms.”
“When I saw the Ducks offer me [the spot on the team], I just grabbed on the opportunity,” Omoruyi said. “With such a great Canadian pipeline, I just wanted to be a part of the journey.”
Omoruyi and his family learned English. But inside their home, they maintained their Nigerian customs and traditions. Eugene spoke his native language, Edo, while eating staple foods in Nigerian cuisine.
“We ate Jollof rice, fried rice, Fufu, yams, so many different foods,” Omoruyi remembers. “Enjoying that food made me physical and strong. It gives you a lot of strength.”
Omoruyi’s love affair with sports began on the soccer pitch, before transitioning to the hardwood. He started playing basketball as a sophomore in high school, playing for the coveted Orangeville Prep program. While he was there, he played alongside future NBA players Thon Maker and Jamal Murray. As Omoruyi explains, being a part of Orangeville Prep prepared him for what to expect playing college basketball.
“It really helped me develop my game and instill more confidence,” Omoruyi said. “It prepares the mindset before going to college.”
As a senior, Omoruyi earned player and defensive player of the year honours, as Orangeville won the Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association Championship. In addition to playing at Orangeville, Omoruyi also participated in the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) for the Advantage Titans. D-I schools began to look closely at Omrouyi, because of his versatility at both ends of the floor.
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