Prep Profile: Blair Academy

Joe Mantegna isn't blessed with the type of had he had two years ago when Loul Deng and Charlie Villanueva comprised the frontline. However, he still has one big-time player in Shamari Spears and enough talent around the big man to win his share of games.

Two years ago, Blair Academy (Blairstown, N.J.) coach Joe Mantegna relied on a pair of guys named Loul Deng and Charlie Villanueva. Last year featured a more-balanced club with guys like Chris Alvarez, Eric Price and Will Scott.

This year Blair will be built around one player – junior forward Shamari Spears.

Spears is a 6-6, 225-pound power forward from Salisbury, N.C., who is getting high-major looks from the likes of Marquette, Clemson, Miami, Virginia Tech, St. John's and Wake Forest.

``Offensively, he's by far our best player," Mantegna said. "He's got a skill set in the post that is tough to stop and has added a perimeter game this past summer."

``He didn't get invited to the shoe camps and people are saying he's too small," he added. "But he's gotten into great shape for the first time in his life and is tremendous offensively right now. He's really slowed the game down and made it a lot more simple for himself."

Matt Szalachowski, a 6-2, 180-pound senior guard from Allentown, Pa., and 6-2, 175-pound post-grad Jordan Davidson, an Arkansas native who is attracting interest from Ivy League schools such as Columbia and Harvard, will likely comprise the starting backcourt. Davidson should be more of the primary ball-handler, but Salachowski can also run the team at times.

Chris Ludgate will play in the middle. The 6-9, 220-pound Summit, N.J., native is getting D-3 interest from Williams, John Hopkins and Tufts.

The final spot is fairly open. Malcolm Pope is talented enough to start, but the 6-foot-, 160-pound sophomore point guard from the Bronx may have to wait his turn. If he does, it'll be a battle between 6-2, 180-pound junior wing Dane Trotter (Danby, Vt.), 6-6, 225-pound post-grad Kenton Thornton (Dallas, Texas), 6-2, 180-pound senior shooting guard Stewart Buck (Blairstown, N.J.) and 6-2, 195-pound post-grad Brian Baudinet, a guard from Connecticut who missed his senior campaign at Taft a year ago due to injuries. ``We're a team with great chemistry, but we need the pieces to fit together because we're not as high-profile as in past years," Mantegna said. "We're going to need to play great team defense because we're not as athletic as we've been in the past."

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