Men’s Basketball: Freshman guard Omari Grier isn’t your typical athlete

Rolando Rosa

Freshman guard Omari Grier leads the team in 3-pointers with 40, despite playing just 17 minutes a game, compared with Greg Gantt and Ray Taylor who average 28.3 minutes per game. All photos courtesy of FAU Athletics.

It’s Dec. 17, and FAU is playing the University of Miami in a televised game at the Bank Atlantic Center in the Orange Bowl Classic in Sunrise.

The Owls are down by three, with 10.7 seconds left in regulation. Leading scorer Greg Gantt isn’t playing due to an ankle injury, but the team still has veteran players available to take the last shot. On the court are Ray Taylor, Alex Tucker, Pablo Bertone and Kore White. They are all sophomores or above. But when the play develops, the ball ends up in the hands of another player: Omari Grier.

A freshman.

Grier runs around a pick and launches a three from the wing, with 1.3 seconds remaining, over the outstretched arms of multiple UM defenders. The ball cleanly drops through the hoop — nothing but net — as the game is sent to overtime. Gantt nearly twists his ankle again springing off the bench to celebrate, as Grier gets mobbed by his teammates on the way back to the bench.

Down by three again, this time in overtime, Grier buries another three from the corner with 33 seconds left, one of his game-leading seven 3-pointers, to send the game into double overtime. Head coach Mike Jarvis lovingly grabs Grier’s neck as he heads to the sideline.

”That game was huge for me,” Grier said. “It was the first game I got to start. I feel like that game was one where I got to showcase my talent.”

The Owls ended up losing 93-90, but after two game-tying shots against Miami, his teammates trust him.

The slender 6’4” guard is averaging 7.9 points per game and is shooting 43 percent from 3-point range. He has made a team-high 40 3-pointers, the most by any freshman in the Sun Belt Conference, and three more than Gantt, who led the team last year with 58 3-pointers. After the Miami game, Grier was tied with two others in the nation for most 3-pointers made by a freshman that far into the season.

“He’s one of our most consistent 3-point shooters,” Jarvis said after an early season win over George Mason. “There’s probably not a better first year shooting guard in the country than Omari Grier.”

It’s a feeling shared not just by Grier’s coach, but by his peers.

“It’s true,” teammate Ray Taylor admits. “We’re down by three (in the Miami game) and a freshman is the one to take the shot.”

The soft-spoken Grier was born in Stratford, N.J. His father Raymond, a lawyer, is a major influence and a person he could not live without.

“My dad’s a very ambitious and determined person,” Grier said. “He also taught me to be independent. Without him, I feel like I’d be completely lost.”

His father raised him in a Baptist church, emphasizing the importance of God to young Omari.

Freshman Omari Grier connected on two game-tying shots earlier in the season against Miami, leading the team with 27 points in the Orange Bowl Classic on Dec. 17.

“I feel like God is a major part of my success,” Grier said. “He’s opened up doors for me that I wouldn’t be able to open on my own. He’s created major opportunities for me, and I feel like that’s why I’m so successful right now in everything that I do athletically and academically.”

“I tried to instill in him that greatness does not come about bestowing greatness upon you,” his father said. “Greatness comes about as a result of preparation. There is no substitute for preparation.”

His message has gotten through. Taylor says that Grier is constantly working on his shot before and after practice. He says that Grier has handled his role well as a freshman, and once he improves his focus, he’ll be even better.

“He realizes that he can play, and once you realize you can play, he’s going to have to focus on other stuff,” Taylor said. “Once he pays more attention to a little more detail I think he’ll be a tremendous basketball player here at FAU.”’

Grier himself believes in order to take the next step, he needs to not take his shooting abilities for granted.

“Attacking the basket,” said Grier of what he needs to work on with his game. “I’m so confident in my shooting that I won’t attack the basket. I feel like me doing that will allow me to be a more effective player.”

Back home, his family is thrilled, but they knew he was capable of reaching these results.

“Omari has been a phenomenal basketball player for a long time,” his father said. “He’s kind of like a musician who comes out with a song that’s about 60-years-old and is an overnight sensation, only to find out that he’s been doing it right for the last 45 years, nobody just never heard of him.”

He chuckles when asked the age he realized Omari would be a special basketball player.

“I’ve got videos of Omari dunking basketballs on a toy hoop in my basement when he was two, three-years-old,” his dad said.

Grier is a pre-business major. He wants the exact same feeling he gets while nailing a game-winner on the court while in the business realm — power.

“I feel like just being able to be in charge of my own business would give me a lot of power,” Grier said. “I’m very interested in business finance.”

Grier’s timely shots are something that his dad grew accustomed to quite some time ago.

“We saw Omari make his first shot to send a game into overtime when he was in 10th grade. When he was in fifth grade, he made shots to win games at the buzzer. When he went to middle school, Omari made 3s to tie games and win in overtime. He made 3s in overtime to win games at Episcopal Academy,” his father said as his voice rose with excitement. “He went to MCI (Maine Central Institute) last year. They won a prep school championship [but] were not picked to win it. Omari hit six 3s and made the 3 at the buzzer to send the game into overtime. You guys see him in the Miami game and say ‘good gracious … ‘ “But he’s been doing that all his life.”

FAU men’s basketball plays a road game against South Alabama on Feb. 2 at 8:05 p.m. 

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Flipping the  Script

In his spare time, Omari Grier writes screenplays with his best friend, Rob Baker, something he says people are surprised to find out, including his teammates.

“They kind of are a little bit shocked at first,” Grier said. “Everyone doesn’t really think of me as that type of person, but it’s just something that I love to do in my free time.”

Baker is in the process of moving to California to pitch one of their screenplays, “Seniors”, to producers.

“It’s based off of four athletes. They’re popular kids in school. They all play different sports and are going through everyday high school student athlete life, as far as alcohol and challenges and in terms of the exposure they get,” Grier said. “It’s a comedy, but at times it gets dark, with a realistic feeling.”

Baker says “Seniors” is inspired by the HBO show Entourage and is quick to point out who the star of the show is.

“The character based off Omari is the popular basketball player, and we’re like his little cronies that make dumb jokes on the side,” Baker said. “He’s basically Vinny Chase, and we’re the other guys.”