This is a huge week for aspiring Rim Country Middle School Maverick basketball players.
Monday, tryouts for the seventh- and eighth-grade boys and girls basketball teams began. The tryout sessions will continue until Friday when coaches must make the unenviable decision of which players will make the team.
Luckily in Payson, the parks and recreation department hosts a seventh- and eighth-grade recreation league where players can hone their skills.
Set to coach the four Maverick teams this season are Tim Fruth (eighth-grade girls), Victor Caballero (seventh-grade girls), Ross Carpenter (seventh-grade boys) and Rory Huff (eighth-grade boys).
Fruth, Carpenter and Huff are veteran coaches on the Rim Country sports scene.
Caballero, however, is new to Rim Country Middle School coaching. He does bring a wealth of experience to the hoop program from his former teaching and coaching assignments at Show Low High School.
For Fruth, coaching will add even more responsibilities to his position as the RCMS athletic director. As AD, he is currently in the process of finalizing the schedules for the coming season.
Currently, the seventh-grade teams and the eighth-grade girls begin play Jan. 22 against Prescott.
The eighth-grade boys face the tough task of opening the season Jan. 16 at the Arizona State Junior High School tournament in Phoenix.
The state tournament is one of the most competitive on the middle school/junior high basketball sports agenda. What makes it doubly tough for the Mavericks is the fact they will be playing against teams that already have played several games this season.
In the Valley, junior high/middle school seasons begin in late November or early December. In the White Mountain League, which includes Payson, practices could not begin this year until Jan. 2.
The local highlight of the season for the eighth-grade teams will be the Copper State Jam Feb. 14 to 16. The Jam annually draws some of the best young teams from around the state. It also attracts some squads from out of the state including Nevada.
The eighth WML basketball season continues until March 8 when the championship finals are contested.
According to Fruth, RCMS basketball schedules will be completed by the end of this week.
For youngsters interested in participating in the town-sponsored league, registration, at $20 per player, is currently being accepted at the parks and recreation office located at Green Valley Park. Registration will continue until Jan. 17.