Forward Nuni Omot steps up on the hardwood

RISING UP IN THE FACE OF ADVERSITY Baylor junior forward Nuni Omot goes up for a tough shot against a Jackson State defender on Dec. 17, 2016, in Fort Hood. Baylor won the game 82-57. Photo credit: Baylor Athletics

By Jakob Brandenburg | Reporter

When Baylor students returned from winter break, there was a new face on the floor for the men’s basketball team. A long-armed, 6-foot-9 forward capable of handling the ball and shooting three-pointers. His name is Nuni Omot.

Omot’s road to Baylor was a winding one. Born in Nairobi, Kenya, Anunwa “Nuni” Omot’s family moved to the U.S. when he was just a few months old. Omot played high school basketball at Mahtomedi High School in St. Paul, Minn. A late bloomer, Omot has grown 8 inches since his junior year, rising from 6 foot 1 inch to his current 6 foot 9 inches.

Omot admits that growing so fast so quickly was a challenge.

“I couldn’t run down the court without tripping over my feet,” Omot said. “I was clumsy. I had to work really hard to keep up with my body.”

Omot enrolled to play basketball at Division II Concordia University in St. Paul while he grew accustomed to his new frame. After two years there, he transferred to Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa.

At Indiana Hills Community College, Omot’s combination of guard skills and a big man’s body developed into a unique set of abilities.

“(I) can stretch the floor out,” Omot said. “Play inside-out. Finish above the rim. Can take you off the bounce. I’m versatile.”

In his final year at IHCC, Omot averaged 12.2 points and 5.4 rebounds per game and was ranked by 24/ as the 14th-best junior college player in the country. Omot received scholarship offers from several Division I basketball programs and ultimately signed with Baylor.

Omot credits his three years of college prior to coming to Baylor for developing his work ethic.

“It taught me how to stay humble and continue to work hard,” Omot said. “Obviously I’ve never had anything handed to me. I’ve always had to work hard.”

Omot had to work hard once again when he arrived at Baylor. He was ruled academically ineligible to play during the fall semester following his transfer from Indiana Hills Community College.

Although sitting out games was hard for Omot, he found a way to use the time off.

“Listen and learn as much as possible,” Omot said. “Obviously, it was tough on me because I felt like I could be out there helping the team, although they were doing really well. I wanted to play, and I love playing.”

Omot made his Baylor debut on Dec. 14 against Southern University and scored eight points. In the 11 games he has played, Omot has emerged as a key player off of No. 2 Baylor’s bench, as demonstrated by a 14-point game in a win over Texas and three made three-pointers against Ole Miss on Saturday.

Baylor head coach Scott Drew noted the advantage Omot gives the Bears over their opponents.

“With Nuni, it’s somebody that gives you great length and athleticism,” Drew said. “Someone that can stretch the defense. It’s similar to Taurean Prince-gives other teams a matchup issue. He’s done a great job and really given us a great lift.”

Prince was a star forward for the Bears last season. He entered Baylor as a fairly unheralded recruit and, in his four years in Waco, developed into a versatile All-Big 12 performer. The Atlanta Hawks drafted Prince with the 12th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.

Prince’s path to success is one Omot hopes to follow.

“I want to be able to play in the NBA and help provide for my family and help back home in Africa,” Omot said.

For now, Omot will continue to aid the Baylor team in the midst of its best start in program history.

“My goal is to help the team as much as possible to win the whole thing,” Omot said.