This season’s incoming freshman class was headlined by 6’9 power forward Omari Spellman, a top-25 recruit out of the St. Thomas More School in Oakdale, Connecticut. With the departure of big man Daniel Ochefu from last year’s National Championship squad, Spellman was supposed to step in immediately to help fill the void.
In a surprising development however, the NCAA ruled the blue-chip recruit as academically ineligible in late September. Spellman was forced to take an academic redshirt, meaning he will be able to attend Villanova this year on scholarship and retain all four years of eligibility. He will be in a similar process to most transfer or redshirt athletes and will be able to be around the team.
Spellman was declared ineligible because he did not graduate with his original high school class. He originally began 9th grade at Middletown High School, a public school located in Middletown, New York, but had the opportunity to attend the much more prestigious Hoosac School, a private, Episcopal boarding school located about 130 miles North in Hoosick. He transferred there after two to three months, but once enrolled, was required to start in 8th grade.
After completing the 8th grade, Spellman went to three different schools over the next four years and academically qualified at each one. However, he had technically started high school a year early and graduated a year after his original class.
Villanova realized that could be an issue and alerted the NCAA. The process went through Villanova’s compliance and general council, the NCAA’s Eligibility Center and, ultimately, the highest levels of the NCAA before Spellman was deemed academically ineligible. Villanova even went as far as hiring a law firm to talk to each school Spellman attended in order to clarify his academic standing. The ruling by the NCAA came down after months of exhausting appeals and an opportunity for reconsideration.
Needless to say, this outcome was a major blow to Villanova’s chances of repeating as National Champions. Not only did it leave them without a true low-post presence on the roster, it also shortened their already thin rotation.