It's summer, but that doesn't mean prep hoop junkies must survive without their usual fix of hardwood play.
Those basketball faithful can bask in delight this weekend when six high school teams from around the state will lock horns in the annual Payson summer invitational.
Tournament games, which will be played each hour in Wilson, begin at 11 a.m. Friday and continue until 6 that evening. Action resumes Saturday at 10 a.m. and continues to 4 p.m.
In the round robin format, each team will play five games. Because it is a summer tournament, no team standings will be recorded and a champion won't be crowned.
But that doesn't mean the action won't be spirited. Many of the young players on the rosters are looking to impress their coaches as they battle for varsity starting positions for the 2000-2001 basketball season.
Many a fledgling player has earned himself a first-team varsity berth with a standout showing in summer play.
During the tenure of former PHS coach Jim Quinlan, the Payson tournament grew from a battle between mostly small-school teams to a contest between some of the best 5A Phoenix and Tucson-area squads.
By attracting the big school powers, Quinlan said the tournament would provide the stiffest competition possible to help his charges prepare for the rigors of 3A play the following season.
Included in this year's field is perennial 5A power Mesa Mountain coached by part-time Payson resident Gary Ernst.
Also scheduled to participate is defending 5A state champion Shadow Mountain the school where former U. of A. star and current NBA pro Mike Bibby honed his skills.
Coach Pat Derksen's Tucson Amphitheater team has been a fixture in the tournament for the past 12 years. Derksen said the Payson jaunt is the highlight of the summer season for his players. Also in Payson will be Mesa Red Mountain and Scottsdale Horizon.
Those who take in the games this weekend shouldn't attend expecting instant replays of regular season contests.
Frequently, coaches agree to institute hybrid rules to allow the players more on-the-court time in the one-hour game limit.
According to one often used rule, game play isn't stopped for free throws except in the final two minutes when the outcome of the contest is on the line.
There is no admission charge to the tournament.
In preparing for the summer shootout, Payson coach Randy Wilcox and assistant Greg Marrs have been putting their varsity and jayvee hopefuls through their paces in a three-on-three league that has drawn eight teams.
Three nights a week, the players battle in Wilson Dome hoping to elevate their skills to the level it takes to be successful in the rugged 3A East Division.
Last Saturday, the summer team traveled to Flagstaff to compete in a one-day tournament.
There, the Rim crew finished with an 0-3 record losing by double digits to Mingus, Flagstaff and Mayer. During the fray, Wilcox had only six players at his disposal, leaving his starters with little backup.
The coach said he doesn't known which local players will be available to participate in this weekend's tournament because many have summer jobs and some are away on family vacations.
But, he said, "we will be a young team with a lot of sophomores playing."
Among those the coach thinks will represent Payson are Jake Swartwood, Alex Cassuto, Nathan Accord and Waylon Pettet.
Senior Dusty Brockett also is expected to play, Wilcox said.
Two basketball camps, both to be held in the old PHS gym, also are on the summer agenda.
The first, for boys entering grades 4 through 6, will be held from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. June 12 to 16.
The second camp, for boys in grades 7 through 9, will be held from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. June 19 to 23. Registration is $25 per camper and may be completed at the Town Parks and Recreation offices at Green Valley Park.
Call 474-5242, ext. 7 for more information.
Payson Summer Tournament
Friday, June 9
Payson vs. Shadow Mountain, 11 a.m.
Horizon vs. Amphi, noon
Red Mountain vs. Mountain View, 1 p.m.
Payson vs. Horizon, 2 p.m.
Red Mountain vs. Shadow Mountain, 3 p.m.
Mountain View vs. Amphi, 4 p.m.
Payson vs. Red Mountain, 5 p.m.
Mountain View vs. Horizon, 6 p.m.
Saturday, June 10
Amphi vs. Shadow Mountain, 10 a.m.
Payson vs. Mountain View, 11 a.m.
Amphi vs. Red Mountain, noon
Shadow Mountain vs. Horizon, 1 p.m.
Payson vs. Amphi, 2 p.m.
Shadow Mountain vs. Mountain View, 3 p.m.
Horizon vs. Red Mountain, 4 p.m.