If you were to look at ESPN’s college recruiting rankings for the class of 2016 by schools, you would have to scroll down a little ways to find Villanova. Of course Kentucky and Duke are at the top, while Mississippi State and Harvard’s nation-leading total of seven commitments may surprise you, or the fact that Louisville’s lone commitment in V.J. King, the #1 player in Virginia, gives the school a spot on the top 40 list of programs is also shocking. Villanova is ranked #33 in the nation with their two-man class of Omari Spellman and Dylan Painter following their fantastic national championship season. That being said, this seemingly precarious situation may not end up being the most uncertain of scenarios in the long run.
Omari Spellman is likely the name that will raise an eyebrow to Philadelphia-area basketball fans. The suburban Cleveland native is ranked as the #5 power forward in the country by ESPN and the #16 overall player. His commitment to the Wildcats marks the eighth straight year that Villanova has snagged a player from the ESPN 100 and the second year in a row that the recruit is a five star. The accolades don’t stop there either. Spellman was selected to be a part of the 2016 Jordan Brand Classic held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. He also participated in the esteemed NBA Players Association Top 100 camp at the University of Virginia. These selections and all-star events do mean something to even us, the fan. It shows there is a national interest in the player and when he has a 6-foot-9, 275 pound frame with incredible mobility and skill, who wouldn’t be?
Spellman is extremely athletic for his size. Philly.com puts in plainly, stating, “Spellman has proved to be an athletic post player. He excels on the offensive end, dunks with ease, and does not shy away from contact.” Spellman, despite being a power forward based on his height, has the body to go up against most big men. He’ll likely fit in as Daniel Ochefu’s replacement as the designated center.
The second member of the Villanova class of 2020 is Dylan Painter. The Hershey, Pennsylvania resident is extremely excited to get the ball rolling for his freshman year. He specifically mentioned in an interview with The Empire that he looking forward to getting on campus as soon as he could and went to great lengths explaining how he will do whatever this team needs him to do. This unselfishness is the exact model of a student-athlete head coach Jay Wright needs to continue a strong program. Painter, a 6-foot-10 multi-position athlete, played center for his school, Hershey High. Although the team “didn’t do as well as [he] would have hoped,” Painter still was productive, as 22 points and 13 rebounds was frequently seen next to his name on the stat sheet. Painter brings a speed and strength that will bolster a frontcourt rotation already ready for a deep run. Despite his talent, Painter will likely play less than Spellman this season, being that there is a slight logjam at the center position and if Wright were to play him as a power forward, it would be in just a few spots due to the prototypical four guard offensive set the ‘Cats like to run.
Over the course of this past season, there was a legitimate question about the big man. Who can play it when Ochefu sits? Darryl Reynolds made a statement in response to that question on February 6th against Providence when he exploded for 19 points, going 9-10 from the floor. He backed that up with a 14 point performance the next game against DePaul in the biggest outburst of offensive production we’ve seen from the former Lower Merion High School state champion. Reynold’s size and defensive prowess enables him to play the 4 or 5 with equal ability. But now with capable power forward/centers in Spellman and Painter coming in, a question arises as to whether or not a fourth member will be added to this rotation. Tim Delaney, the Mullica Hill, New Jersey native and Blair Academy (NJ) star is coming off of hip surgery that sidelined him his entire freshman season. The easy-going forward is a big question mark for this season, as he has yet to play a college game. Delaney will likely be eased in throughout the course of the season following the injury as preventative measures.
Spellman and Painter are really good impact players. Although a team doesn’t NEED an official center to win anymore (Steph Curry’s Golden State Warriors have done pretty well for themselves without relying on Andrew Bogut or Anderson Varejao), teams need dynamic players that can facilitate the offense all over the court, with or without the ball. Despite having only two members for a recruiting class, both Spellman and Painter will mature and develop their respective games. We may not see all of it as fans this season, but the future is incredibly bright these two. Almost as bright as an early April day in Phoenix.
Photo: Gregory Payan/Associated Press
-(1) Villanova defeats (3) Michigan in the National Championship