For the past two weeks, Shelby School basketball coach Steve Rensch has prompted and prodded 27 fledgling court hopefuls through daily drills and games designed to fine-tune their court skills for next season's play.
The boys, ages 10 to 14, participated in the inaugural Copper State Hoop Clinic July 9 through July 20 in the Payson High School gymnasium.
Sponsored by the Payson Parks and Recreation Department, the weekday clinic featured two sessions.
During the opening five-day camp, Rensch assisted by several high-school-aged boys who played previously for him at Shelby focused on improving individual skills such as shooting, dribbling, defending and passing.
During the second five-day session, the coach stepped up the intensity to include 3-on-3 half-court games and full-court 5-on-5 scrimmages.
While the youngsters were huffing and puffing their way through the arduous drills, they were improving their physical conditioning.
"That was one of our camp goals," Rensch said, as was helping the youngsters, regardless of their skills or athletic abilities, master the basics of the game.
Youngsters don't have to possess great athleticism to become contributing members of a successful team, Rensch said.
Evidence that his approach works, he said, can be found at tiny Shelby School in Tonto Village, where he has molded several teams into squads capable of playing on even terms with any middle school squad in Arizona.
In addition to serving as Shelby School coach and hosting the parks and rec clinic, Rensch serves as the tournament director of the Copper State Jam held each January.
The Jam is one of the most successful junior high/middle school tournaments in Arizona and annually draws teams from around the state and Nevada to Wilson Dome.