Rutgers Basketball center Clifford “Big Cliff” Omoruyi signed an NIL representation deal with IPZ, an alliance with Warren-based Zito Partners.
The deal comes as student-athletes navigate the new frontier of name, image and likeness rules. Those standards become more complicated for international students, such as Omoruyi.
The 6-foot-11-inch junior is originally from Benin City, Nigeria, and came to New Jersey as a 14-year-old to pursue an education and a college degree. He used basketball as the tool to help him achieve that goal. Omoruyi split his high school career between Queen of Peace and Roselle Catholic, which he lead to an NJSIAA Non-Public B North title in a COVID-shortened season. He was a consensus four-star prospect and became the first New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year to commit to Rutgers University.
This past season, Omoruyi had a breakout campaign, leading NCAA Division 1 basketball in dunks, as he averaged 11 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks a game, serving as starting center for the entire season.
“I saw Cliff play in high school and was immediately drawn to his smile … his love for his teammates … and of course his game,” said Robert Zito, IPZ managing partner. “This is a young man who exhibits discipline, loyalty, teamwork, and ‘getting it done’ in the classroom and on the court. With a 3.5 GPA and his work representing Rutgers and New Jersey on the basketball court, Cliff has been a phenomenal asset to both the school and the state.”
In July 2021, everything changed for student-athletes following a Supreme Court ruling that officially permitted them to profit off their name, image and likeness. Back in March, NJBIZ reported in-depth about how NIL has impacted college sports in its first year of existence. Coincidentally, one of Omoruyi’s now-former teammates, guard Geo Baker, was one of the early activists and pioneers of the NIL space. His story was detailed in that NJBIZ report.
The laws remain unclear as it translates to international students in the United States on F-1 student visas. Peter Till, a prominent New Jersey attorney, has been working to navigate the complex issues as it relates to Omoruyi and other New Jersey and United States athletes.
“This law firm could not be prouder to preserve and protect all of Cliff’s opportunities that are only available in America,” said Till. “There is a clear and unmistakable reason why so many students come to these shores because of the unparalleled opportunities for greatness that can only happen in this country. We will seek and explore every opportunity to obtain the benefits of hard work available to student-athletes today, including the foreign student-athletes who are unquestionably and utterly accomplished on behalf of their respective colleges and universities.”
IPZ represents sports, media and entertainment clients, providing management, contract negotiations, consulting, public relations and marketing communications support.
“I sincerely appreciate the work that IPZ and Mr. Till are doing on my behalf,” said Omoruyi. “I know that they have met with Rutgers and that my school is supportive. I hope to have the ability to use my personality, knowledge, work as a student in the classroom and my basketball acumen to help brands in New Jersey … the United States … and the world.”l