NORTH CANTON - It was a cold December night in 2009 when Kim Clifford looked at his bench and called for a bright-eyed freshman to enter the game against rival Union Local.
That freshman just happened to be a young man by the name of Dan Monteroso.
That night Monteroso poured in 20 points and helped lead the Red Devils to a victory.
ST. CLAIRSVILLE senior Dan Monteroso prepares to shoot a foul shot in the third quarter. He made the shot, which was his 2,000th career point. He finished Sunday’s game against Cleveland St. Ignatius, in the Dunk 4 Diabetes Shootout, with 24 points and now has 2,009 for his career. Additional images may be found at cu.timesleaderonline.com
"Yeah, I remember that game," Clifford smiled. "It was like he jumped out of a birthday cake. He got it going that night at Union Local and really hasn't looked back yet."
Monteroso not only remembers the game vividly, he remembers his first shot.
"I shot a 3 from the right wing, it hit the rim three times and went in," Monteroso said.
He's not come off the bench since, but he'd be hard pressed to remember every shot and point.
Actually, you'd have to really study Red Devils' game tapes pretty closely to find a rare moment when Monteroso has come off the court at all. with the exception of a game being out of hand or due to foul issues.
Clifford stands with his reasoning for not starting Monteroso on that opening night.
"He didn't have very good scrimmages," Clifford said. "Even in that game, he scored a lot, but he wasn't guarding anyone. He had a really good junior high career, but he didn't excel in the scrimmages, so we thought we'd wait a little bit, and the wait was about a game."
It was watching Monteroso play as a young kid that made Clifford not think twice about even moving him past the freshman and jayvee ranks.
"He had some great games in junior high and then when we went off in the summer and played various teams he was good there, too," Clifford said.
In between that night in Morristown and Sunday afternoon, Monteroso has accounted for 1,985 points and helped St. C. to 71 victories and the school's first OVAC, district and regional titles.
If he already wasn't in illustrious basketball company, he formally etched himself there Sunday afternoon at Walsh University in the second annual Dunk 4 Diabetes Shootout when he became the 45th player in Ohio basketball history to reach and surpass the coveted 2,000-point barrier.
"I started taking (basketball) really serious in the sixth grade and I laid out some goals for myself when I was a freshman," Monteroso said. "It's nice to have achieved this one, but we've got some more to get done."
Coming into the game against Cleveland St. Ignatius needing 15 points, Monteroso started slowly and had 11 at halftime. He hit a 3-point goal midway through the third and then in the final few seconds of the period stepped to the line and buried a pair, putting him over the mark.
While the large contingent of St. C. fans, which made the trip to Stark County knew, the public address announcer formally recognized the achievement between the periods to which Monteroso received a large ovation.
"We had a lot of fans here, but there are a lot of just basketball fans here, who can really appreciate 2,000 points," Clifford said. "This is an unbelievable mark to make."
Neither Monteroso nor Clifford knew when he went to the free throw line that he was shooting for the milestone.
"I tried not to think about it and it only went through my head when people started cheering after that first foul shot," Monteroso said. "I had no clue how many points I went to the line."
The senior southpaw finished with 24 points and now stands at 2,009 points in his career. He's got at least nine games remaining with a chance at as many as 17 games still to go.
The goal of 2,000 points is something that Monteroso has thought about it since he made that early impact. But, for him the team victories have always meant more.
"We competed well today, but it just wasn't enough," Monteroso said of the Devils' 75-56 loss to the Wildcats.
Monteroso, who was a first-team all-Ohioan and Division II state co-player of the year last winter, knew he could make a run at 2,000 points this season, but he hadn't been keeping any kind of tally.
"I knew I was like 300 or so shy coming into the season, but I didn't think about it beyond that," Monteroso said. "It's a big deal now, but wasn't something that I had been thinking about every game or anything. I just try to do what I can to help the team win."
Monteroso, who is extremely humble, passed the credit to his family, coaches and all of his teammates over the years.
"My parents have done a great job of keeping me level headed, my brother has rebounded countless shots for me in the gym over the years and my little sister is there and keeps a smile on my face," Monteroso said. "I have to give a shoutout to my teammates for letting me shoot it as often as I do. Plus, the coaches design things to help me get looks."
Monteroso becomes the ninth player with OVAC ties to be in the 2,000-point clb. Bellaire High's Nate Davis was the last male player to accomplish the milestone. He finished his prep career with 2,562 points.
Chasing down the likes of Davis, St. John's Allan Hornyak (2,385) and Cambridge's Geno Ford (2,680) are no where to found on Monteroso's goal list for the remainder of the season.
"I want to get back to the state tournament," Monteroso said. "This game showed some weaknesses that we have and need to work on. Last year's game against Ironton did the same thing for us, so we'll go back to the drawing board and get better."
The 2,000-points caps a busy weekend of events for Monteroso. He gave the University of Purdue a verbal commitment late last week to continue his football career.
"It's nice to know where I am going to school," Monteroso said. "Coach Hazel and Coach Sherman did a great job of recruiting me and I am excited to go play for them."
Monteroso will try to add to his total Tuesday when Harrison Central visits.
Staskey can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at TLSportsSeth