Rutgers basketball stars share bonds with mentors
NEWARK, New Jersey — Cliff Omorui is known for his powerhouse dunks.
But the Rutgers University junior started playing basketball at just 14, just before his family in Nigeria sent him to New Jersey.
“It was just to get a better education,” Omorui told CBS News.
Omorui moved in with Mohammed Oliver, a volunteer in the basketball program at the Salvation Army Center in Newark, who was initially unimpressed with Omorui’s on-court skills.
“He had a lot of work,” Oliver said. “We basically had to start from scratch.”
Oliver was not only Omorui’s legal guardian but also a motivator.
“I almost gave up on basketball,” Omorui said. “He made me believe that if I kept working I could be anything I wanted to be.”
It was a work ethic that applied off the court as well and allowed Omorui to serve as a role model for Oliver’s son.
“Because of Cliff, my son has made tremendous progress academically,” Oliver told CBS News. “He saw how Cliff handled basketball and math.”
Omorui, who led Rutgers in points and rebounds this season, is one of 10 finalists for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award, given annually to the nation’s best college center.
And as one of the Big Ten Conference’s best players, he earned a $25,000 endorsement. In Oliver’s honor, he donated all that money to rehabilitate the basketball court at the Salvation Army Center.
Omorui says Oliver has changed his life.
“I think he changed our lives, too,” Oliver replied.
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