WHAT PRETTY much has been known for some time now is finally official.

Former Ss. Neumann-Goretti High lead guard Tony Chennault, who spent the last two seasons at Wake Forest, is transferring to Villanova.

Chennault, who nearly chose to play for the Wildcats when he was coming out of high school, could be eligible immediately. He has applied for a hardship waiver from the NCAA, because his mother has been experiencing health issues. Sources have said a decision could be handed down within the next week or so.

"If my mom weren't sick, I'd probably still be down there," said the 6-2 Chennault, who averaged nine points, three rebounds and nearly as many assists in 30 minutes a game as a starter last season. "Family comes first. She's doing better. That's the main thing. She's excited. She only got to see me play one time in 2 years. She'll get to come to every home game. And I can see her almost any time I want. There's nothing like home-cooked meals."

The Wildcats had two junior guards leave early for the NBA draft: Maalik Wayns and Dom Cheek, their top scorers from a team that missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004 and tied a program record with 19 losses. Late last month they welcomed another transfer point guard in 6-1 Dylan Ennis, who averaged eight points, four rebounds and four assists as a freshman starter at Rice. He'll have to sit out a season unless he also files for a hardship waiver based upon a need to be closer to his Toronto home, which Ennis' father indicated the family was considering.

"It's a new opportunity," said Chennault, whose father Anthony was the Daily News 1981 City Player of the Year at Frankford. "I was only able to get home like once or maybe twice a year at most [at Wake Forest]. That's not going to be a problem.

"I just see it as a better fit all around."

Coach Jay Wright can't comment until all the paperwork is completed, which could take several weeks.

"I would love to play next year, if possible," Chennault said. "But it's out of my control. I think I can bring a certain toughness, competitiveness and leadership. I'm a team player. I just want to have a winning attitude.

"[What happened last season] is part of the game. Everybody's not going to have a great year every year. They had one down year. But look at all the other years. They had success. I want to be part of that. I know they have a lot of great pieces there. I'm ready to do whatever they need."

Wright will have three other starters back. He'll also have five players who aren't freshmen any longer. And two local newcomers - Neshaminy guard Ryan Arcidiacono and Westtown forward Daniel Ochefu - who figure to get their chance right away.