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This is the first of an eight-part series in which BamaCentral’s Blake Byler breaks down the numbers and the film to tell you everything you need to know about each of the new additions to the 2024-25 Alabama basketball team.

Although the Alabama basketball team made history last season and reached the Final Four for the first time in school history, a glaring weakness in defense was evident throughout the season.

At the end of the season, Alabama’s defense ranked outside the top 100 in KenPom’s defensive efficiency metric, and one of the biggest catalysts for that was the lack of an elite shooter. After Charles Bediako unexpectedly went unclaimed in the NBA Draft last summer, Nate Oats had a huge hole in the middle of his defense that continued to cause problems throughout the season.

Enter: Clifford Omoruyi.

Omoruyi, a Nigeria native and once a four-star recruit in the 2020 recruiting class, played four years at Rutgers and developed into one of the best shooters in the entire country. He increased his block count each year and averaged a whopping 2.9 blocks per game last season, earning him a second consecutive Big Ten All-Defensive Team selection.

Omoruyi was one of the most coveted names in the transfer portal and was courted by the likes of North Carolina and Kansas State, but was ultimately won over by Oats and Alabama. Not only was Omoruyi one of the best players to enter the transfer portal this offseason, he also fit Alabama’s exact needs.

To illustrate how dominant Omoruyi was as a blocker, his 2.9 blocked shots per game totaled 93 blocked shots on the season. He blocked shots at a rate of 12.7 percent, which ranked him third among all college basketball players.

In addition, Alabama scored a total of 133 blocks last season under all of his players. Alabama’s three best shot blockers, Grant Nelson, Nick Pringle and Mohamed Wague, combined for 99 blocks this season, just six more than Omoruyi alone.

With Omoruyi under center protecting the interior of Alabama’s defense, the Crimson Tide now have a true center with more than enough size (6’10”, 230 lbs) to take on some of the best big players in the SEC, such as Auburn’s Johni Broome and Arkansas’ Jonas Aidoo.

As for his offensive game, you have to consider how Bediako was used: as a lob threat in the pick-and-roll, as a rim runner, and as an excellent rebounder. Omoruyi is more athletic and mobile than Bediako, and combined with his strength, that leads to explosive dunks and lobs from anywhere on the court. Omoruyi averaged 10.4 points per game last season, hitting 62 percent of his shots from the field, with over two-thirds of his field attempts coming from the basket.

Alabama also struggled to rebound the ball defensively last season, allowing the 277th worst offensive rebounding rate in the country. Omoruyi fills that void as well, as he has one of the top 80 defensive rebounding rates in the country as an individual, averaging 8.3 rebounds per game.

To get a clear picture of how Omoruyi fits at Alabama, let’s look at some of his footage from last season at Rutgers, starting with his defense.

These first two clips show Omoruyi’s discipline as a shot blocker. In the first clip against Wisconsin, Omoruyi leaves his man on the block to help against the pressing offensive player. As the offensive player does a pump fake, Omoruyi doesn’t engage in the fakes or leave his feet, but waits and chooses the right time to jump to block the shot.

In the second clip, Omoruyi’s teammate falls and is beaten on the perimeter, causing the attacker to charge straight at Omoruyi. Omoruyi lifts his feet but stays upright and keeps his arms vertical, hitting the Northwestern player in the air and blocking the shot.

Both examples would easily be called fouls for less disciplined defenders. This is a welcome sight for Alabama, as its interior defenders like Nelson and Wague have had some of the highest foul rates in the SEC. Omoruyi averaged just 2.6 fouls per game last season, a very solid number for a shooter.

In the next two clips, Omoruyi shows off his 7-foot wingspan and how it allows him to block shots with incredible reach. When his teammate gets beat against Northwestern and the offensive player appears to have a clear view, Omoruyi’s reach negates the seemingly clear view.

In the second clip against Minnesota, Omoruyi finds himself in an isolated post-up, something that is becoming increasingly rare in modern college basketball but which caused Alabama problems last season. His reach allows him to block a left-handed post hook on the release.

Omoruyi’s presence should at least limit, and at best completely eliminate, the ability of opposing teams to isolate the post 1-on-1 thanks to his basket-defending skills.

Now let’s look at the possibilities of using Omoruyi on offense.

Omoruyi’s athleticism makes him a consistent lob threat anywhere on the court. In these two clips, Omoruyi is used similarly to how Alabama has used its bigs on 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 where he easily catches and slams it. In the second clip, Omoruyi sets up a block and rolls to the basket where he receives a nice pass for another dunk.

Alabama’s offense consistently uses its bigs in DHOs and pick-and-roll actions, allowing guards to finish the basket, throw a lob/bounce pass to the big, or kick 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 when they get in the way of the defense.

It’s not just about lobs either, although those were the two examples in the clips. Omoruyi is a strong finisher from the basket and can just as easily catch a bounced pass after a jump to the basket or a roll and convert the easy twos.

Given the fast pace that Alabama plays at, the big guys have to be in top shape to run the entire game. Not only is Omoruyi in top shape, but he also has great speed for his size.

In the above clip against Michigan, Omoruyi sprints from one end of the court to the other, outruns the opposing big man, and hits a monster dunk after his guard finds him on the block. Omoruyi is a more fluid athlete than Bediako and should be able to score dunks in transition simply by running down the court with speed.

Overall, Omoruyi fills several roles that Alabama lacked last season. With his long reach, the Crimson Tide could go back to drop coverage against ball screens and direct all offensive traffic to Omoruyi, who blocks shot after shot on the interior. It can be argued that he is Alabama’s most important offseason addition, and he should start at the center position from day one.

And to further increase your anticipation, Omoruyi shows off a poster featuring two-time national footballer of the year, Zach Edey:

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