The NCAA has finally completed its review of Villanova freshman Omari Spellman’s eligibility, and the news isn’t good for the Wildcats. Jay Wright’s program was informed that the five-star big man will not be eligible to play in the 2016-17 season, and will instead be required to redshirt — though he will retain all four seasons of college eligibility.
Spellman was under review because, under NCAA rules for initial eligibility, “a prospective student-athlete must complete their initial eligibility requirements not later than the high school graduation date of his or her class.” Spellman graduated from high school in 2016, and presented the same academic qualifications as an NCAA “qualifier” (i.e. a student that is normally cleared to play immediately), but there were some debate over the date in which he officially began his high school career.
The decision by the NCAA will likely leave many Villanova fans scratching their heads.
“We are extremely disappointed for Omari,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said in a statement. “While we don’t agree with the NCAA’s decision, we are members of the association and respect it. We understand why the NCAA felt it had to rule this way.”
Spellman will be allowed to retain his athletic scholarship during the redshirt season and will also be allowed to practice with the team. He will not be able to appear in any games for the Wildcats this season, however, dealing a significant blow to the team heading into their National Title defense this season. The freshman would have almost certainly played major minutes right away for the ‘Cats, bringing a versatile skillset and a big body that would help fill some of the void left by Daniel Ochefu’s graduation.
Now, the ‘Cats will likely look to other options in the post. Senior Darryl Reynolds was already slated to be a big contributor this season after serving as Ochefu’s understudy, and will be even more important now. In addition, two freshmen, 6-10 Dylan Painter and 6-8 Tim Delaney should also see an uptick in expected minutes this season as a result.
Spellman was a top-20 recruit in the 2016 class and had been rated number-two in his class at his position by 247Sports.