The Second Annual Copper State Jam is returning to the Rim country bigger and better than last year when it was one of the premier youth basketball tournaments in the state.
This year, the tournament -- with new co-sponsor Powerade --will be held Jan. 21 through 23 and again Feb. 4 through 6.
The first tournament will be contested among small schools with student bodies of 300 or less in both 7th and 8th grade. The second tournament is open to any size school but tournament director Steve Rensch expects mostly large institutions with enrollments of more than 300 to enter.
Rensch said he expanded the tournament to two weekends with two divisions because last year, some mismatches occurred when small school teams became the whipping boys for the brutes of Tucson and Phoenix.
The new format, Rensch said, should ensure all games are hotly contested and exciting for fans to watch.
In the open or "big school" tournament, defending champion T.G. Barr returns to the Rim country, but this time with the Phoenix Salvation Army.
Other returning teams include Tucson Torolita, Tucson Old Vail, Lake Havasu Thunderbolt, Kayenta, Flagstaff Private and Rim Country Middle School.
New entries are Tucson Emily Gray, Tucson Apollo, Phoenix Cholla, Tuba City and Las Vegas Bridger.
In the small school tournament, returning teams include Globe Holy Angels, Rimrock Beaver Creek, Peoria Apache and Kaibeto.
New to the fray will be teams representing Tucson St. Josephs, Tis Nazbas, Peoria Alta Loma, Tucson Grace Christian, San Xavier, Casa Adobes, West Sedona, Kaibeto, Excalibur and Flagstaff Middle School.
Rensch expects three more teams in the small school tournament and four to enter the big school shootout.
On both weekends, first round tournament games begin Friday morning at 10 a.m.
Action will continue until the championship games are contested at 6 p.m. Sunday. Exact tournament times and opponents will be announced soon, Rensch said.
All games will be played in the Tonto Apache Reservation gymnasium,as they were last year.
Outstanding players and team winners in the tournament can expect to be rewarded with an eye-popping array of specially embroidered jackets, medallions and original trophies. Other attractions will include music, table tennis, foosball, table games and arcade games.
Attendees can buy food at the tournament, including burgers, salads, sausages and wraps prepared by the staff of the local Frozen Cow restaurant.
Rensch expects tournament highlights to include visits from former professional basketball stars Tom Chambers and Connie Hawkins. Both will be on hand Jan. 23 to represent the Phoenix Suns.
Arizona State University football star Willie Daniels, a future NFL hopeful, will visit Jan. 22 and 23. At last year's Jam, Daniels was a magnet for local youths who flocked around him asking for both autographs and athletic advice.
Representing the professional football scene, some Arizona Cardinals players are scheduled to attend the Feb. 4 and 5 tournament.
"Right now, we just don't know which of the players will be here," Rensch said.
New to the tournament will be a half-court shot worth $100 in prize money.
The first shot will be held both Saturdays before the 6 p.m. game. If there is no winner, the shot will be held again Sunday prior to the 5 p.m. game.
Tickets for a chance at the half-court shot will be $2 each.
Rensch says the concept behind the tournament is the same as last year's --to conduct a topnotch athletic endeavor and at the same time provide a family-like atmosphere for players, families and fans.
Admission to the grounds will be free. Game tickets are $2 per day for adults and $1 per day for students/children.