It may be just an exhibition game, but Friday’s showdown between the NBA Development League’s Erie BayHawks and Fort Wayne Mad Ants will probably feel much bigger.

It’s not because of the NBA regulation 3-point line that nearly reaches the sidelines near the baseline.

“Anybody wearing a size 14 shoe or larger might want to think twice about trying a 3-pointer near the corners,” Meadville athletic director Greg Williams joked Wednesday about the new line he taped on the floor.

Meadville High School’s The House of Thrills has hosted it’s share of top-notch basketball players, like Chris Buchanan, Biff Kress and Michael Burnett, but it has never hosted professionals.

Many of the BayHawks are returning to a high school court for the first time in more than four years. For BayHawks guard Jackie Manuel, that will be an experience in itself.

“It will be like playing at (Duke University’s) Cameron Indoor,” said Manuel, a tri-captain on the 2005 NCAA champion North Carolina Tar Heels. “It will be fun and exciting. And I think it will take a lot of the guys back to how fun it was in high school.

“Hopefully, it will be a lot of fun for the fans, too, and it will be a great game.”

Another reason this game will play out bigger than an exhibition is the fan support.

Williams said about 500 tickets have been sold through the high school and another 100 have been sold through the BayHawks.

“In my experience, when we have pre-sale tickets for high school events, the walk-up sales are two or three times larger than the pre-sale numbers,” Williams said.

He said tickets will be on sale today and Friday until 4 p.m. After 4 p.m. Friday, tickets will not go on sale until the doors at the gym open at 6 p.m.

BayHawks coach John Treloar said playing the game in Meadville gives the team, which is affiliated with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors, a chance to broaden its appeal.

“The Cavs use (the BayHawks) very similar to how the Detroit Tigers use the Erie SeaWolves,” Treloar said. “The younger guys they want to get more time for, they send down. So it is a chance for people in the area to see Cavaliers players right here close.”

Manuel said he notices that the fans supporting the BayHawks are also Cavaliers followers.

“You definitely see it,” said Manuel. “Every time I ask someone who their favorite team is, they say ‘the Cavs,’ or ‘I love LeBron.’ And you never know who is going to get called up because of injury or something.

“So there is interest in seeing us play to see who may be the next guy called up.”

There are certainly possibilities.

The BayHawks feature four returning players, all with NBA aspirations. Manuel is one of those returnees, along with guard Oliver Lafayette and forwards Ivan Harris and Jarvis Gunter. Harris, a former McDonald’s All-American, helped Ohio State reach the 2007 NCAA championship game where it dropped an 84-75 decision to Florida.

“We also have John Bryant, who was player of the year in the West Coast Conference,” said Treloar.

Gametime for Friday’s contest is scheduled for 7 p.m. and a full team autograph session will take place after the game.

Williams said the team also is preparing to bring its entire regular-season game entertainment package, which includes the BayHawks dance squad and giveaways. Williams said Meadville High School cheerleaders also will be performing and the high school’s treble choir will perform the national anthem.

“People will leave feeling like they got their money’s worth for the ticket,” Williams said.

Matthew Digiacomo can be reached at 724-6370, or by e-mail at

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