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Omari Spellman's shooting for Villanova can't be ignored

Redshirt freshman Omari Spellman is Villanova's best interior presence but he also has a shot from distance that cannot be overlooked.

Villanova’s Omari Spellman scored a career-high 27 points and made a career-high 11 field goals in the Wildcats’ win over Temple.
Villanova’s Omari Spellman scored a career-high 27 points and made a career-high 11 field goals in the Wildcats’ win over Temple.Read moreCharles Fox/Staff Photographer

It's no secret that Jay Wright would like to strengthen his team's interior presence on offense, and it's no secret that the Villanova coach believes he will ultimately have that with the continued development of redshirt freshman forward Omari Spellman.

Still, in the age of the stretch-four forward, Spellman has made sure to develop perimeter skills to enhance the prospects for his future aspirations.

In Villanova's 87-67 victory at Temple on Wednesday night, Spellman scored a career-high 27 points and made a career-high 11 field goals. The 6-foot-9, 245-pounder from Ohio also matched his career high in made three-pointers with four.

When Spellman set his previous career-high with 16 points against Saint Joseph's, he also drained four treys.

On the season, 14 of Spellman's 44 field goals (31.8 percent) have come from downtown. He has the green light to shoot from distance because he connects on 46.6 percent of them (14-of-40) — ranking second on the team.

"We need an inside presence, and we know [Spellman] can do that," Wright said. "We've been working with him on that, and he's been doing a great job. As we're doing that, we're working on footwork and watching, then saying: 'This kid can shoot.' We chart our shooting every day, and we're saying he's one of our best shooters."

It's one of those issues coaches love to deal with.

"We still want to keep developing [Spellman] as a post player," Wright said. "He did a real good job (against Temple), but we can't disregard the fact that he is one of our best shooters. He showed what he can do."

It's been well-documented that Spellman, who was rated 16th in the 2016 edition of ESPN's Top 100 recruits, sat out last season after the NCAA controversially declared him to be an academic redshirt.

He practiced with the team, which allowed him and his teammates to get an understanding of each other. Still, practicing is much different from playing in games.

Spellman has had the good fortune of having players like juniors Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges and Phil Booth and sophomore Donte DiVincenzo to share the load. It has allowed him to find himself at his own pace, rather than have the pressure on him of doing it all right away.

"It definitely helps to be around players who are as good as my teammates are," said Spellman, who is fifth in scoring at 10.6 points per game, and tops in rebounding with 7.5 per game. "I'm very appreciative of my teammates and coaches because they are making it a lot easier for me to grow up as a player."

It can't be stated enough that the ability of several different players to seize control of any particular game is one of the reasons Villanova (11-0) is ranked No.1 in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches polls.

Bridges, Brunson, Booth and DiVincenzo all complement their ability to drive to the hoop with outside shot-making ability.

Spellman may ultimately become the most difficult Wildcat to contend with, because he has a combination of size and strength that others do not.

Nobody likes to guard a big man who has the bulk to beat you up inside the paint, then drift out behind the arc and consistently light it up.

"We knew Spellman could make shots because we've seen him do it in previous games," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. "You're just hoping he's not going to be as efficient as he was.

"We missed him a couple of times on threes, but we were right where we wanted to be in defending some twos, and he just stepped up and made shots in our face. He was terrific."