Omari Spellman: Big East Freshman of the Year Makes a Big Splash at Villanova

Photo courtesy of USA Today.

By David Cordova

In this day & age, power forwards are the norm in a game of versatility in every facet of the basketball scene, whether it’s college, the NBA or some other form of professional basketball.

Gone are the days in which big men just stayed in the post and dominated in the paint. Now, they can step out and shoot the three-pointer and also show off their dribble.

One player that can show off those skills and more is Omari Spellman. The 6-foot-9 redshirt freshman from Villanova is one of the most skilled players on the college basketball scene. He has been known to be dominant in the low-post, but is skilled behind the three-point range and has good ball handling skills.

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Spellman has a great arm reach and is great at defense. (Photo courtesy of Villanova University Athletics)

“I just want to set a good example to play hard and play for my teammates all the time,” said Spellman.

Spellman grew up in Middletown, New York, but then moved to Ohio when he was in high school. When asked about moving to Ohio, he replied. “It’s just like very family-oriented, you know, everyone sticks together, everyone knows everyone, so it’s just family-oriented, so it just pushed me to come to a program that’s very about family and has a great culture around it.”

Spellman is also a product of the Pro Scholars Athletics (PSA) Cardinals AAU program, which is based in The Bronx, New York, and is a powerhouse on the Nike EYBL circuit. When asked about his ties to the program, he replied, “PSA taught me a lot of things about life, more so than basketball. They’re like family members. I still talk to Munch [Williams], I still talk to Dave [Gates], I still talk to Jacque [Rivera], I still talk to Dre [Charles]. It’s a family, it’s really a brotherhood. And I’ll always look up to those guys.”

At North Royalton High School, he helped lead the Bears to a 43-5 record in his time there and averaged 22 points and 9.8 rebounds per game as a sophomore.

Then as a junior, he would transfer to the MacDuffie School in Granby, Massachusetts and then as a senior, would finish out at St. Thomas More School in Oakdale, Connecticut, where he would average 15.9 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.

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Spellman grabs a rebound against West Virginia in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. (Photo courtesy of USA Today).

When asked about his experience at prep school, he replied, “Prep school is just different, it makes you grow up a lot faster, and definitely prepared me to be in college alone, on my own, and to make the right decisions when the time came to,  so I definitely appreciate those experiences.”

Spellman finished out his high school career, as the No. 18 rated player in the Class of 2016, by ESPN. He was courted by many high-major Division I schools. But on February 20th, 2015, while still a junior at MacDuffie, he decided to commit to Villanova.

When asked about his decision to commit to the Wildcats, he replied, “Definitely the family atmosphere and the culture. I wanted to be a part of something bigger than just myself. There’s other places I could have went to and tried to average as many points as I could, but I really wanted to come somewhere that I could learn and grow with my teammates and coaches and could be a part of something bigger than just me.”

And the best part is he gets tutelage from longtime Villanova head coach Jay Wright. When asked about playing for the legendary coach, he replied, “Honestly, it’s incredible. He knows a lot and he teaches me every day and it’s just helpful and helps me grow, not only as a player, but as a person. I’m just getting better every day.”

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Spellman shoots over Alabama’s Donte Hall in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. (Photo courtesy of USA Today).

Spellman would have played last season as a true freshman, but unfortunately was deemed academically ineligible in the 2016-17 season, because of eligibility reasons. He first started out high school in Middletown, but only stayed for two months, and then transferred to the Hoosac School, which recommended that he enroll as an eighth-grader. According to the NCAA, because he started at Middletown, his eligibility clock started.

However, because he completed his 16 core courses, as mandated by the NCAA, he was given an academic redshirt, which meant he would receive athletic aid, and was able to practice with the team, but could not play in games.

Spellman used the time as a way to get stronger and also lose weight. In high school, he weighed as much as 287 pounds. Now he’s at 245 pounds and in great shape.

This past season has been one for the ages, as Spellman has averaged 10.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game and won Big East Freshman of the Year honors. “It feels good, I definitely couldn’t do that without learning from Coach [Wright] and without learning from my teammates and just being open to Coach and being open to getting better every day. Mines is a team award, because I couldn’t do anything that I do on the court without those guys.” he said.

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Spellman tries to shoot over Butler’s Kelan Martin during the Big East Tournament. (Photo courtesy of USA Today).

This season, Villanova has gone 34-4, won the Big East Tournament, maintained a No. 1 ranking in the Associated Press poll for a large part of the season, and have now reached what many programs aspire to do, which is get to the NCAA Final Four, in which the Wildcats will play against Kansas this Saturday, March 31st, at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.

Right now, Spellman and the Wildcats are sticking to a formula of staying grounded, even though they’ve been very successful this season. When asked what’s the goal for the rest of the season, he replied, “Win our next game. We always think about our next game and we just, next game, next game, next game. If we keep winning our next game, we’re good.”

Just two years ago, Villanova won a national championship. With the type of team the Wildcats have, there’s no doubt that they can make it to Monday, April 2nd. But first the goal is to get past the Jayhawks and make it back to that game once again.

As for Spellman himself? “I don’t know. I just take everything day by day and whatever the future holds, it’s holds.”

Highlights of Omari Spellman:

Courtesy of NCAA March Madness.

Courtesy of ESPN.

Courtesy of RI Affiliated.

Courtesy of 3rd Coast Blog.

Courtesy of Courtside Films.

Courtesy of NCAA March Madness.

Courtesy of RI Affiliated.

 

Courtesy of FOX Sports 1.

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