By SETH STASKEY
Times Leader Sports Editor
There's a cliche in sports that says, 'tradition doesn't graduate.'
PICTURED IS the 2013-14 St. Clairsville basketball team. Front row, from left, are Dylan Panepucci, Logan McCort, Luke Slavik, Daniel Trouten,?Patrick Buchanon and J.C. Coleman. Standing, from left, are assistant coach Kevin Sacco, Brendan Ferns, Travis Hothem, Michael Scarnecchia, Joel Giffin, Jared Derosa, Brandon Bosworth, Michael Monteroso, assistant coach Ryan Clifford and head coach Kim?Clifford.
St. Clairsville fully believes in that because Kim Clifford's Red Devils have been winning with regularity.
The level at which they've won the last two seasons, however, has been unprecedented. The list of accomplishments includes two OVAC and district titles as well as the regional championship in 2012.
While the tradition remains, the majority of the talented players, who played a large role in that success have collected their diplomas.
"We've been on a great run," Clifford said. "The neat thing about coaching is that you get to come back the next year and play the hand you're dealt. You hope your program has something to do with filling those spots."
Leading the list of graduated Devils is current Purdue wide receiver Dan Monteroso, who was a three-time all-Ohioan. He's the all-time leading scorer in St. C. history with 2,340 points, which ranks 18th in Ohio history.
Also gone are Jerrid Marhefka, Riley Carlton, Adam Jeffries, Jared Burghy, Zach Keylor, Dylan Campbell and Jay Gossett.
"Those guys meant a ton to our success, obviously," Clifford said. "We're certainly going to miss them. We're not going to miss them as players, but just as people. They were a great group of kids. We probably won't realize how special of a group it was until a few years down the road."
While their accomplishments won't ever be forgotten, it's a new season and that's where Clifford's focus lies.
"We're here and we're still going to play," Clifford said. "We're excited about this group."
Many fans will need a roster close by early in the season. Only senior Joel Giffin boasts significant varsity experience.
"We're going to be predominantly an underclass team," Clifford said. "These guys are anxious to play. This team is really bonding well and they genuinely like each other, which is always a good size."
Despite the youth movement, you won't hear Clifford, who is in his 23rd season with the Red Devils, using that as a crutch.
"This will be the last time I say we're young and inexperienced," Clifford said. "We're not going to use that. It's these guys turn and they'll learn on the job. Our practices have been really competitive and I think we'll go back to playing a lot more guys than we have the past few years."
With so many new faces, Clifford walked to the first practice of the season and did something he can't recall he's ever done before.
"We got into a circle and introduced ourselves," Clifford laughed. "It was a little different. Plus, we have to schedule our practices earlier, so our guys can ride their bikes home while it's still light out."
According to Clifford, the progress the Red Devils have shown since the summer has been vast.
"We were awful when we started in the summer, but by the end of the summer, we'd gotten a lot better just from playing," Clifford said. "I think we've really progressed well. We're going to be a work in progress."
The number of players lacking true varsity experience has allowed Clifford to get back to doing more teaching of the game this month.
"We've had what seemed like veteran team after veteran team come through, but now we've got an old guy coaching really young kids and it's been fun. The potential is there for us. We have to remember that (the season) is a marathon, not a sprint."
The approach won't change with the Red Devils. They're still going to get after teams with a full-court man and Clifford thinks they'll be an adept perimeter shooting team. One area where the Devils may look a bit different is in the half-court set."
St. Clairsville features four seniors on the roster this season.
The aforementioned Giffin (6-3) has been a starter the past two seasons, but his offensive role will increase significantly.
"Joel's been a steadying force for us," Clifford said. "He's always been a decent shooter, but he's gotten better offensively. He's a strong kid who is a good passer."
Senior Jared Derosa (6-0) has seen some spot duty during his career. Clifford is impressed with his defensive ability and expects him to be a factor on the offensive end.
"Jared's probably our quickest guy and he's a good shooter," Clifford pointed out. "He's played some different roles, but we're going to ask him to score."
Senior Dylan Panepucci (6-1) is another impressive shooter from deep.
Brandon Bosworth (6-1) rounds out the senior class. He'll be in the mix for minutes.
Four juniors are trying to work their way into the rotation.
Michael Monteroso (6-3) has improved all areas of his game, according to Clifford.
J.C. Coleman (6-1) is another junior who Clifford has "high hopes" for this winter.
Travis Hotham (6-4) is in the hunt for more minutes and will provide depth on the interior. He's a solid rebounder and shooter.
Isiah Sears (5-7) transferred to St. C. from Martins Ferry. He's a solid ball handler and can shoot the ball well from behind the line.
Three other juniors trying to crack the rotation include: Tyler Lunsford (6-1), Matt Mazgaj (6-3) and Alex Gazdik (5-10).
Clifford is extremely excited about a deep and talented sophomore class and expects several tenth graders to see quality minutes.
Guard Daniel Trouten (5-6) appears set to take over the point guard spot.
Brendan Ferns (6-3) will log quality minutes in the low post.
Patrick Buchanan (6-1) has earned the name of "silent assasin" for the Devils.
Logan McCort (6-0) has also caught the eye of the coaching staff with his shooting ability. Luke Slavik (5-11) is another who could be right in the mix for additional minutes.
Two talented freshmen could work their way into the rotation. Michael Scarnecchia (6-3) is expected to make an impact.
Jordan Vincent (5-10), who is the son of St. C. legend Shawn Vincent, is also expected to vie for minutes.
The Red Devils schedule has a significantly different look. Gone are Claymont, Columbus Africentric, Cleveland St. Ignatius and Upper Arlington.
They've been replaced with Brooke, Fort Frye, Point Pleasant and Renaissance Christian Academy.
The Devils will take on Fort Frye at Marietta College in December and will meet Point Pleasant at the Charleston Civic Center in a day-long event.
St. C. also has road tests at Steubenville and Cambridge in the non-league portion of the schedule.
Clifford's entire coaching staff returns in tact at the varsity level. He'll be joined on the bench by his son, Ryan, Kevin Sacco and Eric Gay. Josh Johnson and Jon Perkins are leading the eighth and seventh grade teams, respectively.