As the dog days of summer roll on, the hardwood action in Wilson Dome heats up.
Newly appointed Horns coach Mike Loutzenheiser will be on hand to ensure the off-season hoop play goes on without a hitch.
A former football and basketball standout at Payson High School, Loutzenheiser said one of his goals as the head of the basketball team would be to create interest in the sport during an intensive, but fun, off-season program.
Because he took over the team late in the spring, Loutzenheiser didn't have the luxury of months of planning to prepare for summer play.
But after a slow start, he has the team off and running toward what he hopes will be a banner 2001-2002 campaign.
Remaining on the summer agenda is a 3-on-3 tournament at the end of the month, just prior to the opening of fall sports practices Aug. 6.
The half-court play, Loutzenheiser said, will be confined to prospective team members from freshmen to varsity candidates.
The new coach and his assistant, Crystal Garvin, will place players on their respective teams then watch in wide-eyed anticipation as the players put their playground skills to the test..
The early round of the tournament will be the usual pick-up rules one point a basket and call your own fouls. The championship showdown will be officiated, Loutzenheiser said.
Also on the summer schedule is open gym sessions from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays in Wilson Dome. Those sessions continue through July.
In addition to 3-on-3 and open gym hoop opportunities, Loutzenheiser's charges had the chance to the tune up for the coming season during live competition against summer teams representing the communities of Queen Creek and Globe.
Contested June 29 and 30 in Wilson Dome, the round robin shoot-out saw Payson come from behind to whip Queen Creek 59-35 but then fall 56-45 to Globe.
After watching Globe prevail, Loutzenheiser tabbed the squad a legitimate title contender.
"They could be the best team in (Class 3A) next year," he said.
Although Payson eventually lost the contest, the team played tough. "It was our best game of the summer," the coach said.
The scrimmage allowed Loutzenheiser the chance to assess his new players against topnotch competition. After play, he doled out honors to Waylon Pettet for exceptional defensive efforts and to brothers Nick and Alex Cassuto for heady play in the back court.
Throughout the game, the team struggled in the low post, mostly because it was without 6-foot, 5-inch Mike Barr who was out of town.
Also, at halftime, the team lost Pettet and Taylor Walden. Both had committed to play on the State Farm Insurance men's softball team that was participating in the Independence Day Firecracker Tournament that same day.
"That hurt us when we lost them," Loutzenheiser said.
In the win over Queen Creek, Loutzenheiser cited Jake Swartwood, Ky Bradley and Pettet for contributing to the effort.
After a sluggish start in which the Horns trailed 26-25 at halftime, the trio fueled a late Payson surge.
"We might have taken them too lightly, but we dominated the second half," Loutzenheiser said.
Following the late afternoon clash, the two teams gathered at Chaparral Pines club house for a bit of prep camaraderie.
"We swam and had a barbecue ... it was pretty neat for all the kids," Loutzenheiser said.
Call Loutzenheiser at 474-2233 for more information on the summer basketball program.