The Longhorn boys basketball team has had an exceptional year. In fact, the season ranks among the best in the history of the program at Payson High School.
There are a lot of reasons behind the team's standout campaign.
One that might not be obvious to many is the heady play of point guard Derek Daniels.
All season, he's been the glue that has held the team together. He's not the leading scorer or rebounder, but Derek performs the intangibles that often don't show up in the statistics.
One of his biggest supporters is coach Mike Loutzenheiser who knows all too well what Derek does for the team.
"He's definitely our leader on the court," the coach said.
Derek is usually on the floor for more than 30 minutes a game and defensively draws one of the opposition's most talented players.
When on offense, he's averaged about five assists per game and can always be counted on to distribute the ball to an open teammate.
Derek is also shooting about 40 percent from three-point range which has kept opponents from sagging down low to double team 6-foot, 7-inch Mike Barr.
Although Derek is not a prolific scorer -- that's not his role on the team- he did score 15 points in a win over Snowflake and 17 in an Eastern Arizona tournament one-point loss to Safford.
With so many youngsters trying to emulate the flashy, but fundamentally unsound, professional players we see on TV, Derek is a breath of fresh air.
If you see Derek around town, give him a pat on the back and thank him for his unselfish play. He'll appreciate it.
Little League tryouts
Payson Little Leaguers 9 to 12 years old who were not on a major league team last year must participate in team tryouts scheduled for tomorrow (Saturday) at Rumsey 1 field.
The schedule is:
12-year-olds -- 9 a.m.
11-year-olds -- 10 a.m
10-year-olds -- 11 a.m.
9-year-olds -- 12:30 p.m.
Teenagers participating in the senior league, and were not members of a senior team last season, must try out at 9 a.m. March 1 on the Rumsey II field.
Players should attend equipped in baseball garb and be prepared to run, hit, catch and perform other fundamentals of the sport.
Bunk an all-star
At the conclusion of the Copper State Jam Feb. 9, Rim Country Middle School eighth-grader Alex Bunk was named to the all-tournament team.
Bunk joins three other Mavericks who earned all-tournament honors -- Mike Barr (2000) Donnie Wilbanks (2001) and Danielle O'Haver (2002).
Past all-tournament players from Tonto Village Shelby School include Dallas Rensch (1999), Harper Kamp (2001) and Jeff Mulcahey (2001).
Sweep it up
Foster's Vacuum of Payson is sponsoring a "Clean Sweep Award" for any local who wins his/her division in four motorcycle races of the Whiplash Desert Racing Series. The award consists of a trophy and $1,000 in prize money.
The Whiplash races that will be used to determine the winner include: Tucson Folls GP, the Cinders Mountain 100, Camp Wood 100 and the Vulture Mountain 150. The races will be held in April, June, July and October.
If no one wins the award by winning all four events, then there will be a smaller award of a trophy and $200 to the competitor who scores the most points in those four events.
Although the award is only for motorcycle classes this racing season, originators have plans to expand the event to include ATVs next year.
For a copy of the official rules, visit Foster's Vacuum at 200 W. Frontier Street Suite D or call (928) 474-2721.