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Findlay tall order for foes

Michael Peck is a student of basketball strategy who loves to draw up mismatches on a dry-erase board.

So Findlay Prep’s fifth-year coach must feel like a mad scientist when he looks on the practice court and sees a team with an average height of nearly 6 feet, 8 inches.

“Defensively, our size can be a little intimidating,” Peck said. “But intimidation is more of a mental thing. I want to take that a step further, that they look the part and play the part. If you can impose your size and your will on a team, now you’ve got the mental advantage.”

Findlay Prep opens the season against visiting Impact Academy at 7 p.m. today at Henderson International.

The Pilots are so stacked with size that Peck said even 6-9 small forward Winston Shepard could see some minutes at point guard.

It’s a lineup that 6-9 senior forward Brandon Ashley can’t wait to run with.

“We have so many guys who can do so many things,” Ashley said. “We average probably about 6-8 in height, so I think our size and versatility is going to be a huge advantage for us this year.”

Ashley, who has committed to Arizona, is one of the team’s top newcomers this year, along with senior point guard Dominic Artis, senior center Matt Willms and junior swingman Chris Wood.

Ashley played summer basketball with Artis, and the two California Bay Area natives plan on displaying their chemistry tonight.

Ashley is driven to return Findlay Prep to a consensus national No. 1 ranking like it enjoyed in 2009. The Pilots finished a disappointing 13th in USA Today’s final poll last season.

Findlay Prep’s annual goal is to win the National High School Invitational. Peck became animated when talking to his players during Monday’s practice, equating last year’s tournament qualifier banner to a certificate of participation.

It’s a philosophy Ashley likes.

“Coming from California, losing in the state championship two years straight, winning is definitely something I have to do,” said Ashley, a transfer from Bishop O’Dowd in Oakland, Calif. “Getting a national championship is my main focus.”

Findlay Prep’s senior class is headlined by 6-8 forward Anthony Bennett.

A strong junior crop includes guard Nigel Williams-Goss and current UNLV-committed wing player Wood.

Bennett said Findlay Prep feels good about its depth.

“It doesn’t matter who’s out there because everybody can shoot, everybody’s tall, can rebound and go hard the whole time,” Bennett said. “Whatever lineup we put out, it should be a good one.”

Findlay Prep plays its first six games at home. Among Findlay Prep’s marquee opponents this season is Bishop Gorman, in a game set for Jan. 21 at Cox Pavilion.

The Pilots also will play local teams Eldorado, Las Vegas High and Foothill.

“We’re anxious to go against somebody other than ourselves,” Peck said. “Like I tell the guys, we’re prepared. We’ve put in everything we could possibly face from a game standpoint.”

NOTE — With signing day coming Wednesday, Peck said his only players he expects to sign are Ashley (Arizona) and Artis (Oregon). He said UNLV recruiting targets Bennett and Willms plan to sign in the spring.

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