It’s hard to put much stock in preseason games. They don’t count after all. Coaches don’t use much, if any, of the playbook and players are still working their way into game shape. Still, there are reasons to be hopeful for the upcoming season.
Eugene Omoruyi is one of those reasons for the Dallas Mavericks. In a reserve role, he is quickly becoming a fan favorite. Through two games, he’s averaging 11 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists—some of which have been highlight worthy. He is showing why Dallas signed him to a two-way contract and looks like another under-the-radar quality signing.
“This is just a joke, but he can also say this is just a hobby,” Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd says. “When you talk about someone who went to school to become a lawyer and said yesterday after the game that this is a hobby, it’s a hobby he’s becoming really good at. We hope that he continues to love his hobby and keep working at it. It’s great to see a young man put in the work.”
Omoruyi played just over 22 minutes against the Los Angeles Clippers Friday night. He tallied 19 points, five rebounds, and two assists. During his extended play—he logged the most minutes of any Maverick—he split time on the court with the starters.
“They’ve really taken me in,” Omoruyi says about the starting unit. “They’ve really acted as vets should act. They’ve really taken me under their wing and shown me the roots and shown me the ways of affecting the game—not scoring only—affecting the game in different ways, especially on defense.”
While it’s natural for a rookie to cut his teeth on defense before earning regular playing time, Omoruyi has shown that he has an offensive knack beyond what might have been expected. In the first preseason game against the Utah Jazz, he connected with fellow rookie Feron Hunt for a halfcourt alley-oop dunk.
Against the Clippers, Omoruyi had another (near) highlight up his sleeve. With 8:16 remaining in the third quarter, he channeled his inner Tracy McGrady and decided to toss the ball off the backboard to himself. Isaiah Hartenstein was having none of it and fouled him hard.
“If I come off the screen and I see that—because sometimes I pick up my dribble and they know I’m about to lob it—and they go back and the corner man goes to his [corner], so the glass is what I see and I’m going to throw it off the glass and try and put it back in,” Omoruyi says.
It’s aggressive plays like this that will endear Omoruyi to his teammates, coaches, and fans alike. While he will spend much of this season with the Texas Legends in the G League—his two-way contract allows him to be active for 50 of the Mavericks’ 82 games—he plans to bring the same attitude and effort every time he enters a game.
“Just me staying mentally prepared. It’s my rookie year, but I’m not the same age of a lot of rookies,” Omoruyi says. “I’m mature and I’ve got to come in and play my role and do whatever I can to affect the game.”
Author’s Note: This post was updated with comments by Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd.