Sophomore Watch: Shamari Spears

The entire ACC basically passed on P.J. Tucker because he was undersized and didn't quite measure up to the look test. Don't expect the same thing to happen with Shamari Spears.

The 6-6, 235-pound sophomore who hails from Salisbury, N.C., may not have the same skill-set as Tucker, but he knows that people still look at him the same way they did at the Texas freshman a year or so ago.

Spears put up 30 points per game as a sophomore at Salisbury High last season, but he wanted a better challenge on the court and a better chance to succeed in the classroom so he transferred to Blair Academy (N.J.) and is doing his sophomore year over.

It took Spears a while to get adjusted, but now he's become the team's go-to guy and has boosted his numbers to 21 points and 9 boards per game.

"He's not the warrior that P.J. Tucker is," Mantegna said. "I'd compare him more to (Pittsburgh's) Ontario Lett. He's more skilled than P.J. Tucker is."

"He's got a great feel for how to score in the post and has a nice touch around the rim," added Mantegna. "He's a little bit like Bernard King and Adrian Dantley in that he can score off-balance, fading away and is just really creative around the rim. But he's just starting to learn how to play. He isn't even sniffing his ceiling right now."

Mantegna would know since he coached Loul Deng and Charlie Villanueva a year ago.

Spears still needs to play hard all the time and will have to work on his body and his defense, but he's versatile enough to dominate in the paint and also step out and bury the 3-pointer.

Spears, 17, said that while he'd prefer to play in the ACC, he also realizes that his game and build might be more suited for the Big East. So far, North Carolina, Duke, Georgia Tech and Clemson are all on him from the ACC and UConn and Pittsburgh are his top Big East schools. Oklahoma and Kansas are also in the mix.

"It shocked me that these schools are on me," Spears said. "I was always a chubby kid who couldn't do anything else but shoot. But I slimmed down and grew out of the body fat."

Spears admits that his co-leaders at this point are UNC and Oklahoma – mostly because of the style of play.

"I like the way both of them play up and down," he said. "They both play inside and then outside."

Spears will play with Wake Forest-bound juniors Kevin Swinton and David Weaver and the Greensboro Gaters this summer and he'll try to show colleges not to make another mistake with an undersized power forward from North Carolina.

"When I look at [Tucker] and what he's done, it makes me feel good," Spears said. "Someone my size is doing that well in a big-time conference."

Inside Carolina Top Stories