Prep School Countdown: No. 11 Blair Academy

No Loul Deng. No Charlie Villanueva. Blair coach Joe Mantegna doesn't seem all that worried. Not with a more-balanced team that has a few components his past squads were lacking.

We're unveiling the most extensive and only prep school poll of its kind and we'll take a look at Blair Academy, which checks in at No. 11.

When coach Joe Mantegna looks down his bench this season, there will be no Loul Deng. No Charlie Villanueva.

He won't have the star power he had last year, but there will be much more depth in Blairstown this season.

Holdover Chris Alvarez, a 6-8, 210-pound senior power forward who has committed to Dayton, will be one of the keys to this year's success. So will 6-3, 175-pound junior point guard Eric Price, a one-time commit to Memphis.

``He doesn't have any real weaknesses in his game," Mantegna said. ``He's going to do a lot of things for us. He also doesn't do anything great, but he's extremely talented and hard-working who will help us in a lot of different ways."

One player who Mantgena has been raving about is 6-6, 240-pound sophomore forward Shamari Spears, who hails from Salisbury, N.C. Mantegna believes he's an ACC-caliber player whose game is reminiscent of former NBA scoring machine Bernard King.

``He's real versatile and can play inside or out," Mantegna said. "He's probably the truest post player we've had here in the last five years. He's still young, but he's a heck of a talent."

Senior wing Will Scott (6-3, 170) has already committed to Cornell and he'll likely be joined by 6-9, 220-pound junior power forward Chris Ludgate in the starting lineup. Blair also returns seniors Alex Adrien (6-0, 175) and Kortney Hopkins (6-3, 180), both New Yorkers who have spent the last three years in the program.

Other players expected to battle for time include talented 6-foot, 160-pound freshman point guard Malcolm Pope, 6-8, 185-pound senior power forward Matt Robbins, 6-foot senior point guard Mike Gallihugh, 6-2, 180-pound junior wing Stewart Buck and 6-2, 180-pound junior wing Matt Szalachowski.

``We have more depth than we've ever had before," Mantegna said. "The great thing about our team over the last two years is that anytime it was close we felt we were going to win. We haven't built that kind of trust yet, but I like the fact we have a true point guard and an inside player – two things we really haven't had before."

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