Russell is hosting the inaugural Marvin Meredith Classic in the gym that bears the late coach’s name on Saturday.
Meredith died in July at age 85. The Red Devils won 677 games and three region championships during his 32-season stint as the boys’ basketball coach.
“He was very well-respected, not only in coaching basketball but in the political field,” current Russell coach Merle Kidwell said Wednesday of Meredith, who also served as a Boyd County commissioner. “You could never get anybody to say a bad word about coach, and our gym’s named after him, and we thought this past summer this would be another way to honor him.
“When you talk about local coaching legends you have to include him (and) coach Ivan McGlone here at Russell, and we just thought it would be appropriate and fitting to name the classic after him, and hopefully this will be something we can have for years to come and bring in some good teams for local fans to see.”
Saturday’s festivities kick off with Russell freshman and junior varsity games at 2 and 4 p.m., respectively, and culminate with a varsity doubleheader matching Ashland and Scott at 6 p.m. and the Red Devils and Wheelersburg at 8.
Kidwell is hoping to expand the event into “three, four games” in the future, but for now, he’s satisfied with the field the classic has drawn.
The Tomcats (7-3) have established themselves among the 16th Region’s favorites entering the new year. Scott has struggled with its perennially difficult schedule to the tune of a 5-10 start, but the Eagles were 10th Region tournament runners-up last season, and the Pirates (2-3) got a late start after their football team’s run to the region championship game.
“We feel like we’ve got three quality teams coming in to play,” Kidwell said.
Russell has found the going tough through the first month-plus of the season, sitting at 4-9. The Red Devils graduated 87 percent of their scoring from last season and are waiting on senior Johnny McGuire’s broken leg to heal.
Kidwell said Russell is “hoping that in the next couple weeks” McGuire, the lone returning starter from last year’s 63rd District champions, can return.
In the meantime, the Red Devils are trying to get toughened up to attempt a similar postseason run, and their coach said they “have grown pretty well.”
“No pun, but our weakness is when we play physical teams,” Kidwell said with a laugh. “Physical teams are giving us a lot of problems, but we’ve been in every game but two or three. Ramsey Mullins and Zach Tackett have been mainstays and we expect that out of our two seniors, and we have some other young kids that stepped up in our wins.”
Kidwell noted that Wheelersburg dropped a 58-50 decision to Minford (Ohio) on Dec. 20. Seven days later, the Falcons dealt Russell an 88-52 setback.
“We know we’re going up against a quality opponent,” he said. “You try to bring in teams that you can get fans to come out and see, and I think the Ashland-Scott game with (Tomcats) coach (Buddy) Biggs and (Eagles) coach (Brad) Carr’s teams will be a good game to see, and I think our kids will be excited to play Wheelersburg.”
The event is being sponsored by Slim and Trim, A&A Porta Potty, Big Sandy Superstore, Stultz Pharmacy, Tim Horton’s and Johnson Chiropractic.
ZACK KLEMME can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2658.