Despite Omari Spellman being a nationally sought after recruit coming into college from Cleveland, his path to pro hoops was certainly not simple. Spellman talks about the toolkit he needed to make the journey possible in his appearance on Mental Buckets in which he attributes much of his success to taking on a team-first attitude.
From the get-go, Spellman has consistently prioritized others around him. Born in Cleveland and raised by a dedicated single mother, family was and is always first for Spellman. He was a proud older brother to a younger sister and brother, who currently are playing hoops at Michigan State and Temple respectively. Though making it to Villanova and having a chance to thrive in Jay Wright’s system was certainly a blessing, Spellman is the first to acknowledge the ingredients needed for his success there.
On top of Wright’s coaching, he gives credit to his strength and performance coach John Shackelton who helped him get in better shape, and lose 55 pounds and improve nutrition so he could become a cornerstone for the program during his redshirt year. Shackleton is responsible for helping Kris Jenkins, and so many other pros, by helping them get into tip-top shape. In his spare time, Spellman picked up poetry and continues to write to this day. After his redshirt year, Spellman nearly averaged a double-double with 10.9 points and eight rebounds per game, but his selflessness towards his team never wavered.
“None of us cared who had the shot. We just wanted to win,” Spellman said on Mental Buckets. That year, he was named both Big East Rookie of The Year and Big 5 Rookie of the Year, and became a national champion with a team for the ages. Even after his growth at Villanova, Spellman admitted he wasn’t ready fully to make the jump to the pros despite his strong work ethic.
Packie noticed firsthand the drive that Omari had to succeed, but he even admitted that he had the “pro talent without the pro stuff.” Now three years into the pros, Spellman has used his team-first mentality only to push himself further. Among those he learned from are some of the Warriors greats.
“I’ve been around some very unselfish superstars like Klay Thompson, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, very unselfish people. And I think even being around them and seeing them work, seeing how they approach the game, and seeing how they approach life in general, even further confirms to me, like, bro it’s not about you. And even if it is about you, don’t make it about you. That was something I’ll hold with me forever.”
Today, Spellman arrived in the G-League Bubble ready to put on a show for the Erie BayHawks of the New Orleans Pelicans system. If we know anything about the teammate Spellman is, we can expect nothing less than a long career ahead of him.
Behind the creation of UPBYCF lies years of activism for both Turners and a sustained interest in bettering communities in The Bay Area. They know the statistics that six times as many low-income students drop youth sports when compared to those from high-income families because of access (Aspen Institute Project Play Initiative). They also know firsthand the power sports has to build character because “a survey of 400 female corporate executives found 94% played a sport and that 61% say sports contributed to their career success (EY Women Athletes Business Network/espnW, 2014). The launch of UPBYCF is bounded in these statistics and in past experiences both Turners have had with nonprofits such as The Boys and Girls Club, Big Homie Project, and Play MakeHers. Yearly clinics at UPB have focused on women’s empowerment, and tackled issues like access to sports, and hunger.