With first-year coach Mike Loutzenheiser now calling the shots, the Payson High School boys basketball team is expected to couple a run-and-gun offensive style with hard-nosed man-to-man defensive techniques.
"Defend get up and down the floor that's the way we want to play the game," the coach said.
When the team doesn't get the fast break and easy layup it's looking for, Loutzenheiser will ask his players to run a "wheel" or motion offense that involves plenty of player movement without the ball.
While the offense limits the flashy one-on-one style of basketball that young players marvel at in the NBA, it does create ample opportunities for easy layups and jump shots.
Defensively, the coach has added a unique wrinkle to the traditional man-to-man philosophy. Instead of having his players fight through picks as most coaches do, the Longhorns will be switching defensive assignments when an opponent attempts to use a pick. While switching sometimes results in mismatches, Loutzenheiser is convinced it can help his team.
"It (the philosophy) has been a hard sell, but if the players communicate, I'm sure it will make our defense much better," he said.
In addition to the man defense, the Longhorns will have a 4-1 zone press and a 1-2-2 match-up zone in their arsenal.
The press, Loutzenheiser said, will be used to try and create turnovers and wreak havoc on foes' offenses. The zone can be used when the Horns are in foul trouble or can't match up against taller or faster opponents.
The challenge of the coach during preseason drills has been to plug the players into slots where they can best contribute to the team cause.
If Loutzenheiser opts for a tall front line, he'll go with Mike Barr (6'5") at center and Nate Accord (6'2") and Jake Swartwood (6'1") at forward.
Although those athletes give the Horns their tallest inside trio, Loutzenheiser can also call upon Chris Donaldson, Alex Cassuto or Waylon Pettet to play the "3" or small forward positions.
When not at forward, any one of the trio is capable of also playing the "2" or off-guard position.
Ky Bradley and Matt Woolwine also are penciled in at the off-guard positions.
Nick Cassuto and Derrick Daniels are battling for starting honors at the all-important point-guard slot.
Steel Owens is also in the mix, looking for playing time wherever he is needed.
Of the current roster, only Bradley and Woolwine saw much varsity playing time last season.
"We are very young and don't have much experience," Loutzenheiser said.
Although the team isn't a veteran one, the players are enthusiastic and looking forward to the new campaign.
"The attitudes are really good impressive in fact," the coach said. "They are working very hard."
In instilling a new program at PHS, Loutzenheiser's goals have been to build camaraderie among the players and do away with the "what's in it for me" attitude.
"I want them to come together as a family and for everybody to get along," he said. "If we really live by the team concept, we will surprise some people and get some wins."
In an effort to further create the team atmosphere he is looking for, Loutzenheiser has devised a program he calls the "Three Cs."
It involves players doing the right things in the classroom, community and on the court.
"If we take care of business in those three places, we'll be OK," Loutzenheiser said.
In order to implement his Three-Cs philosophy, the coach has had to take a hard line enforcing the rules and regulations of the program.
"Some of the problems in past programs have been with discipline," he said. "We want that corrected."
This season, the king of the 3A conference is projected to be the defending state champion Tuba City Warriors.
"We could see them twice in the early season," Loutzenheiser said.
Payson and Tuba City lock horns in a regular season meeting Jan. 5 in Tuba City. The other match between the two could occur at the Ames Ford Shoot-out Nov. 29 to Dec. 1 in Winslow.
Both are entered in the invitational and have been placed in the same bracket.
In the East region, Snowflake, Round Valley and possibly Alchesay are expected to be regional title contenders.
During summer league play, Loutzenheiser had frequent opportunities to see the Globe Tigers in action and predicts they will be a force in the South region.
As for the Longhorns, "we are the underdogs," he said. "Not much is expected from us, but that could work in our favor."
When more than 50 prospective players turned out for preseason drills in late October, the Horn coaching staff of Crystal Garvin, Mark Revell, Reed Watson and Loutzenheiser, knew they would have to cut players at every level.
Tryouts were held and evaluations performed before the coaches decided on which players to keep.
On the freshman and jayvee level, 12 players have been assigned to each team. The varsity lineup sports 11 players.
Garvin will coach the freshman and Revell the junior varsity.
Watson is slated to assist on the varsity squad.
All three teams will make their home debut Nov. 27 against Fountain Hills.
Game times are 4:30 p.m. (freshman), 6 p.m. (jayvee) and 7:30 p.m. (varsity).