Latinos in the NCAA: Norchad Omier makes big impact at UM
MIAMI (United States) – Central American talent is thriving overseas. A perfect representation of such talent is Norchad Omier, hailing from Bluefields, Nicaragua. Omier is the first Nicaraguan in history to get a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I scholarship and is projected to continue to the highest levels of basketball.
The 6'7" forward is currently playing for the University of Miami (UM) in Miami, Florida. The third-year sophomore stand-out averaged 14.1 points, 10 rebounds and 1.3 assists, while shooting 71.5 percent from the free throw line in the regular 2022-2023 season. Omier recorded 15 points and 13 rebounds in the Canes' final regular season game against Pittsburgh. He totaled 196 total rebounds in Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) play this season to tie a program record.
His performance helped the Miami Hurricanes finish a historic year, being crowned co-champions of the ACC regular season. This earned the Hurricanes the first seed in the ACC Tournament for the second time in program history. The regular season conference crown is the third in team history.
The Canes are now vying for the ACC tournament title, they face Duke University in the Semi-finals on Friday night.
Although he's only getting started in a promising basketball career, Omier's journey started differently than an average NCAA player. His story begins at the Beholdeen neighborhood in one of the most popular areas of Bluefields, Nicaragua.
It was former Nicaraguan national team player and basketball promoter, Wesley Savery, and the work of legendary coach Ronnie Cayasso who discovered the young talent of Norchad Omier.
Wesley, who had an outstanding career in NCAA Division II, always seeks to support Nicaraguan basketball to continue its growth and its participation in high-level competitions. In one of his trips to Bluefields, he recounts how he had the experience of seeing Omier play for the first time.
"Arriving at the game, the first sound I heard was that recognizable boom, a dunk, and I was surprised to hear that at a youth game and the unified celebration of the whole gym," he said.
At the young age of 15, Norchad shined through great talent and athleticism while playing against Liga Superior players, and Savery contacted the Omier family and committed to helping him get the best conditions for his basketball career – with the objective being a sports/academic scholarship.
“Basketball for me is a lifestyle. Another way that I would describe it is like a key that opens a thousand doors, because a few years ago I was in Bluefields studying and playing and I never would have imagined that through basketball I could be playing at the University of Miami, in one of the largest conferences in the United States," Omier said.
Omier began participating in various camps outside his native Nicaragua and positioned himself as one of the top recruits for scouts and college coaches in the United States. He began playing in Miami Prep School and, due to his outstanding potential, quickly broke records. One of the most impressive ones was notching 45 double-doubles (points and rebounds) in 47 games. This landed high interest from 11 American universities.
Entering the NCAA
However, due to the pandemic, several offers disappeared, and it was finally Arkansas State that confirmed their commitment to Omier, officially turning him into the first Nicaraguan to sign a scholarship in Division I of the NCAA.
As a freshman, Omier was named Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year and became the first student-athlete in the Conference since Western Kentucky's Mike Wells (2003-04) to win both awards.
After 2 years in Arkansas, Omier entered the transfer portal where he decided to return to familiar territory and one of the most competitive conferences in the NCAA.
He was top three in the transfer portal, and there were 37 universities trying to recruit him. The Nicaraguan ultimately chose the University of Miami.
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Playing with Nicaragua in his heart
"It's a very nice feeling, I feel very proud to be the first and show that there is talent in Nicaragua and that thanks to my story more doors will open for other athletes in Central America," he said.
Omier is a regular spokesperson for his native country and seeks to attract, through his outstanding work and image, positive stories and all the benefits of his native Nicaragua, where he's becoming a cultural icon.
“For Nicaragua, having the first player to reach Division I of the NCAA has been an achievement for our sport, and there are thousands of others who follow every Norchad game, which has created a phenomenon within young players, because everyone wants to be like him," said Yuri Cisne, general manager of the Nicaraguan Basketball Federation (Fenibal).
"Norchad has represented our country in the most honorable way, managing to open doors so that other young people can have the same opportunities in the United States. He has elevated us to another level, where no Nicaraguan player has reached, with extraordinary results in each game. The dream of our country is to see him in the NBA”, added Cisne.
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In April 2021, Omier made his debut for the Nicaraguan national team during the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Americas Pre-Qualifiers.
“It was a beautiful experience to wear the colors of my country. It fills me with pride because any child, when they start playing a sport, dreams of playing for their national team and playing at the highest level,” said Omier, who also gives back to his community with work at the federation. He joined Fenibal's project, called “Let's Make MiniBasket, One Ball per Child”, where he shared his experiences with 100 boys from Bluefields.
Norchad, is also majoring in Sports Administration with a minor in Sports Sciences at UM.
"The message that I would like to give to future players is to never back down and that if you really want to do something, it doesn't matter in any sport, give your 100% and trust God first and to study, because education is very important. Let's be respectful of older people, listen to your parents and make dreams come true. In reality, if one wants it with all their heart and works for it, with God's help, things happen."
About his projections for the future, Norchad shares: “I dream of the biggest stage, first of all thanks to God, because he has me where I am today. The dream is to go to the NBA, finish my university degree and go play professionally,” he concluded.