Prized Vil­lanova re­cruit ruled in­elig­ble

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Terry Toohey ttoohey @21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Ter­ryToohey on Twit­ter

The NCAA’s ini­tial el­i­gi­bil­ity re­view on Vil­lanova fresh­man Omari Spell­man is in and the prized re­cruit is out for the 2016-17 bas­ket­ball sea­son, the uni­ver­sity an­nounced Fri­day.

“We are ex­tremely dis­ap­pointed for Omari,” Vil­lanova 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.

“We will make a pos­i­tive out of this for Omari. He will con­cen­trate on his aca­demics and in­di­vid­ual devel­op­ment this sea­son. In the long run Omari will be a bet­ter stu­dent and player for this ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Un­der NCAA ini­tial el­i­gi­bil­ity by­laws, a prospec­tive stu­dent-ath­lete must com­plete ini­tial el­i­gi­bil­ity re­quire­ments no later than the high school grad­u­a­tion date of his or her class. Although Spell­man grad­u­ated from high school in 2016 and dis­played the same qual­i­fi­ca­tions as a qual­i­fier, the NCAA ruled Spell­man’s sta­tus as an aca­demic red­shirt.

The 6-9, 260-pound for­ward will re­main on schol­ar­ship and be able to prac­tice with the team. He will not be able to play in any games and will re­tain four sea­sons of el­i­gi­bil­ity.

“It’s a chrono­log­i­cal is­sue, when his four-year clock started,” Wright said back in Au­gust when the sit­u­a­tion first came up. “There’s a ques­tion with that so we gave (the NCA A) all the in­for­ma­tion and they’re look­ing into it.”

Spell­man at­tended three schools dur­ing his scholas­tic ca­reer. He went North Roy­al­ton High School out­side of Cleve­land, Ohio for two years be­fore trans­fer­ring to the MacDuffie School in Granby, Mas­sachusetts for his ju­nior year. Spell­man then spent his se­nior year at St. Thomas More School in Oak­dale, Conn.

“It’s when his ninth­grade year started,” Wright said in Au­gust. “Once you start ninth grade you have four years (of el­i­gi­bil­ity). It’s when it started. That’s what’s in ques­tion and I can’t say any­thing more than that, but that’s what’s in ques­tion. They looked at ev­ery­thing. Aca­dem­i­cally he’s good. He’s al­lowed to be on schol­ar­ship, it’s that clock.”

The school will hold a news con­fer­ence at 2 p.m. Fri­day to dis­cuss the mat­ter.

The de­ci­sion leaves the de­fend­ing na­tional cham­pion Wild­cats a lit­tle thin on the front line. Spell­man was ranked No. 18 in the Class of 2016 by ESPN.com and the No. 5 power for­ward. He was ex­pected to help fill the void cre­ated by the grad­u­a­tion of cen­ter Daniel Ochefu.

The loss of Spell­man leaves Vil­lanova with se­nior Dar­ryl Reynolds, sopho­more Tim De­laney and fresh­man Dy­lan Painter as the only ac­tive play­ers on the ros­ter 6-8 or taller. The 6-9 De­laney is com­ing off of dou­ble hip surgery. The 6-10 Painter played well dur­ing the team’s re­cent ex­hi­bi­tion trip to Spain.

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