St. Clairsville set out in the off-season to build a schedule that could accomplish two things.
The Red Devils, first and foremost, wanted to challenge themselves as much as possible, so it added several games against big-name competition.
Secondly, it wanted to use the schedule as a vehicle to promote high school basketball as much as it could.
The Red Devils' Saturday night game should accomplish both of their goals.
St. Clairsville, which opens its 2012-13 season this evening at home against Edison, will play its second game against Division IV state tournament qualifier Columbus Africentric.
"I've always wanted to bring a city league team into our gym and how how the other parts of the basketball world live," said St. C. head coach Kim Clifford. "With the scheduling expanding to 22 games and we've gotten to know (Africentric's) coach in summer events, so this just worked out in a lot of ways."
The Red Devils' season was obviously delayed by two weeks because of the football team's success and trip to the Division IV state title game last month.
So, there's no question the Red Devils are anxious to get on the floor.
"Our football players didn't have any scrimmages, but I'd certainly rather be lining up with the guys of our caliber than not," Clifford said. "I'm sure we'll have some rust, but everyone has that early in the season and every team has to play its first game at some point."
The Red Devils are coming off a memorable season in which they won the school's first basketball regional title and played in the Division II state tournament at the Schottenstein Center where they were bounced by eventual state runnerup Elida.
"Even though we have the same guys, kids always develop differently," Clifford said. "It's a new year and we'll always be a work-in-progress. We're striving to get better and do better than we did last year."
The Nubians will come to Belmont County with a 4-1 record. They've won four straight since falling to Cleveland VASJ in the opener at the Clark Kellogg Tip-Off event. Their victories have come against Eastmoor Academy, Marion Harding, Independence and Walnut Ridge this past Tuesday.
"We went to Columbus and scouted this team and they're very, very powerful," Clifford said. "They're very quick and well-coached. They play extremely hard. This will be a nice challenge and it's one we're definitely looking forward to. We chose to play this game. (Africentric) didn't join our league."
According to St. Clairsville High graduate and highly respected Ohio basketball writer Kurt Stubbs, Africentric is led by senior guard Kenny Robinson.
"Robinson is averaging 18 points a game and he's an elite athlete," Stubbs said. "Almost everything for him is at the rim. He's always in attack mode. He's physically strong and has the ability to (dunk) on someone in traffic."
Senior point guard Trevon Saunders is the Nubians' top defender and scores 13 points a night. Senior Cyquil Harris is another guard option for Africentric, who scores 10 points a game.
Stubbs also spoke highly of sophomore Jaquan Harrison, junior Akil Cornish, sophomore Ulmer Manzie (6-7) and frosh Houston Smith.
"We're really excited for the season and this game," Clifford said. "It's definitely going to be a different game than we normally play. We hope it can generate some excitement because I think there are a lot of curiosity seekers and a lot of anticipation for this game."
The Red Devils are obviously led by senior Dan Monteroso, who is rounding into hoops form after the lengthy football campaign. Monteroso was a co Division II player of the year last season and garnered first-team all-everything.
Clifford held Monteroso back a little bit after he reported to begin hoop workouts because of a tweak in his leg he suffered during the state football final.
"Dan missed a couple of practices, but he's really looked good the last few days," Clifford said.
Other expected starters for the Devils are seniors Riley Carlton, Jerrid Marhefka, Adam Jeffries and junior Joel Giffin.
There was no advance sale on tickets, but a large crowd is expected Saturday.
There will be a jayvee game, which tips off at 6 p.m.
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org