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Published on February 14th, 2017 | by Zachary Smith


Spellman Battles Adversity to Break Career Blocks Record

Men’s basketball forward Jarel Spellman has taken the basketball court by storm in his second season at Florida Southern College, breaking the school for record for career blocks.

Spellman broke the school record for career blocks as the men’s basketball team rallied late to defeat Palm Beach Atlantic on Feb. 4.

The previous career block record was held by Christophe Humbert. Humbert blocked 162 shots in his 91-game career from 1999 to 2001.

Breaking the record for career blocks is already a milestone. However, Spellman has broken the record in just his sophomore season and in just 51 games.

Entering the latter stages of the season, Spellman currently has a career total 178 blocks. His current season total of 88 blocks places him atop the Sunshine State Conference and third nationally.

In his freshman season, the 6-foot-10 inch Spellman showed early signs that he could become a special player. Spellman led the SSC in blocks and was ranked fifth nationally in blocks amongst all Division II players. He also notched FSC’s second ever triple-double in a win against Palm Beach Atlantic last February.

However, Spellman has bettered his game on all fronts in his sophomore season. Entering his second season at FSC, Spellman was elected to be a captain by head coach Mike Donnelly and was asked to deliver for his team on and off the court. Spellman has in fact delivered.

The Richmond, Va., native has nearly doubled his points per game, and he has increased his rebounds per game and blocks per game.

The graphic below provides a statistical comparison between Spellman’s freshman and sophomore seasons.

Jarel Spellman by the Numbers

However, despite his current success at FSC, Spellman encountered his fair share of failure and adversity on his come-up.

Spellman attended Hermitage High School in Richmond, and the men’s basketball struggled. In turn, Spellman and his teammates did not receive a great amount of attention from college basketball coaches.

Upon graduating from high school, Spellman received no scholarship offers to play college basketball. His chance to play at the next level appeared to be bleak and he said it was extremely difficult to cope and he began to question his ability.

“I started seeing my friends going to other schools get Division I offers and all these other offers and I was the outsider looking in,” Spellman said. “Honestly, it really put me in a dark place. I felt like I wasn’t good enough, and then I thought, ‘well I am so tall how am I not good enough, like I have so much of an advantage over everyone else and I am not using it.’”

A New Chance

Fortunately, the opportunity for a second chance to play college basketball appeared for Spellman. Rather than attending college his first year out of high school, he elected to play basketball at a preparatory school.

Fork Union Military Academy offered him the chance to play basketball and attend the school for a year at no cost. After being presented the offer, Spellman said he felt like the opportunity was too good to pass up despite the risks involved.

“After everything hit the fan, it hit me like, ‘wow this actually a great opportunity.’ I knew the risk/reward was high,” Spellman said. “I was risking not seeing friends and family, being miserable for a year and going to Fork Union and not getting any offers, but the reward was getting to go to school free and getting to prove that I could in fact do it, and the pros outweighed the cons.”

Spellman immediately took the opportunity to play at Fork Union, but the opportunity didn’t come without difficulties.

Spellman left his home in Richmond and traveled an hour a half down the road to Fork Union with no friends or family close by. Spellman said he could only communicate with friends and family via email from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

In addition to the restricted email hours, Spellman was only permitted to have phone calls no longer than 30 minutes each day. Every day, Spellman said it was a struggle to find a balance in order to satisfy everyone who wanted to speak with him.

The school’s heavy focus on intense discipline was also a daily struggle.

Spellman said those who attended the school always said it was a good place to be from, but not always a good place to be.

Despite the difficult adjustment, Spellman flourished on the court. After his year at Fork Union concluded, Spellman had interest from over 20 Division I schools and had scholarship offers from Virginia Military Institute and Rider University.

Unfortunately, Rider rescinded its offer, which left Spellman with the VMI offer. However, Spellman said VMI was not a school he had a desire to attend.

Donnelly catches a glimpse

Once again, a golden opportunity presented itself for Spellman.

Donnelly was the head coach at Southern Connecticut University when he saw Spellman play during his time at Fork Union. Donnelly said he was immediately drawn to Spellman’s drive and determination on the court.

“What really stood out about Jarel was how hard he played,” Donnelly said. “He had to go up against a 7-foot-1 inch, 230 pound chiseled monster both days we were at Fork Union, and he just battled. I loved his motor.”

Upon moving to FSC, Donnelly made it a priority to have Spellman join him. Donnelly said Spellman was his first call when he arrived at FSC and was his first signing after making the move from Southern Connecticut.

Spellman said he was overjoyed and relieved to join FSC.

“When he (Donnelly) got the Florida Southern job, he said he wanted to take a chance on me, and that’s exactly the chance I needed,” Spellman said. “It was kind of heaven-sent you know, because I didn’t want to go to VMI, and I was just looking for a place to call home.”

Upon arriving at FSC, Spellman has offered the Mocs a dangerous option in the post. Spellman’s ability to score inside and outside and his prolific shot-blocking ability have made for a great career to date.


Spellman is on pace to have 380 career blocks at FSC. (Photo Credit: Andy Meng/FSC Athletics/Stageshot Photography)

Donnelly said Spellman has an amazing ability to change any game he is on the court.

“Every time a team drives, they are hesitant, because they know he (Spellman) is there, and he does it (blocking shots) without fouling and he keeps the ball in play,” Donnelly said. “So he creates extra possessions for us in transition and that is when we play at our best.”

Despite his immense amount of talent, Donnelly believes Spellman has so much more room to grow. Donnelly said Spellman’s ability to be coached, intense drive and willingness to learn are important assets to have as a player that will only lead to Spellman bettering himself in his next two years at FSC.

Spellman and the rest of the men’s basketball team will be back in action against the University of Tampa on Feb. 15 at 7:30 p.m.


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