Basketball is one the many successful sports at Blair Academy in Blairstown, New Jersey. The team, under Head Coach Joe Mantegna, has finished with outstanding records in the past couple of seasons and looks to stay dominant as they move forward. Not only is the season brutal when it comes to playing tough competition in the state or the region, but the players and coaches must work every day of the 12-month year to stay on the team or behind the bench.
Blair players aren’t just working to keep up with their basketball skills. They are working to maintain the standard that Coach Mantegna and his staff set for them when the players are recruited.
“The standard we use is similar to what Texas A&M coach Buzz Williams uses, which is OKG, meaning our kind of guy,” said Coach Mantegna. “The 4 major things of this are that we want academic and low drama guys. Guys that will display grit and resilience. We want guys that love the game of basketball. Those things help tell us that we can work with them in the intense setting we try to set for the team.”
With over 20 wins each of the past 4 seasons, with the exemption of the 2020-2021 season, the team has learned that their identity is a strong, well-balanced team. Their competition sees a national schedule with many NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Division I players on the opposing teams.
The Blair program is different from many schools in its region because of multiple reasons. Coach Mantegna used one of the school’s ideals to exemplify this: “We have this culture of selflessness where we try to create a setting of achieving Mudita, meaning the vicarious joy for the success of others.”
Because the team is very competitive when it comes to their play, Coach Mantegna tries to prepare the boys for college in any way that he can, not just on the court, but in reality, as well.
“We try to make sure the guys know that they are loved, and also make sure to tell them the truth,” said Coach Mantegna. “The world can be a very tough place, and there’s areas that all of us can improve on, even me as a coach.”
Heading into his Senior season, Blair’s star player Carnegie Johnson is excited for the upcoming season and has really come to appreciate all that the coaching staff and the faculty at Blair has done for him.
“Being able to play for Coach Mantegna is an amazing opportunity,” said Johnson. “He has so much experience, brings a level of intensity and passion everyday that is unmatched by any other coach that I’ve ever had. Blair not only has prepared me for the next level of basketball, but has prepared me for the next stage of my life which is college. Blair has a great community of people that have your back. I’m learning very valuable life lessons at Blair.”
Coach Mantegna and his coaching staff look to continue the success that the Blair basketball program has had in the upcoming seasons. Through hard work and sacrifice, they build a program that forces players to never quit and succeed in anything that the player puts his mind to.
Andrew Nowel, Contributing Sportswriter
Currently enrolled at Canisius University in Buffalo, New York, Andrew Nowel is an up-and-coming journalist/photographer and broadcaster. He wrote sports' articles for his high school, Pope John XXIII Regional High School. Andrew has worked with Morris Sussex Sports in sports broadcasting and analyzes professional sports in his free time. Andrew and his friend Ryan have a podcast that talks about professional sports and Canisius Athletics. Andrew also runs his own website about Canisius Athletics. He strives to inform the people about local sports and the young athletes of our communities from Buffalo to New Jersey and everywhere.
Andrew has provided previous and remarkable sports stories and photographs for the Ridge View Echo since he was 16 and enrolled at Pope John High School.