Summer Basketball Returns To Payson

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An array of teams competing for the first time will highlight the upcoming Longhorn summer boys basketball tournament.

Among the squads that have participated in Payson over the years are Tucson Amphitheater and Mesa Mountain View.

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Payson High School boys basketball coach Mike Loutzenheiser will head the upcoming Longhorn boys basketball camp that will be co-sponsored by the Town of Payson Parks and Recreation Department. In addition to the camp, Loutzenheiser will serve as director of the boys basketball tournament to be held June 13 and 14 in Wilson Dome.

Amphitheater has showcased its hardwood skills in the tournament for the past 15 years and Mountain View is a three-time champion.

At Amphitheater, the annual visit to Payson is a much-anticipated ritual that has spawned more than its fair share of fables and tales. Among the yarns are those of past freshman and sophomore midnight snipe hunts into rugged Pine Canyon.

Not many snipes have been bagged, but the hunt has become legendary on the Amphi campus.

For perennial state title contender Mountain View, the summer tournament represents an opportunity for coach Gary Ernst to visit with his parents who are full-time residents of the Rim country. Ernst also has a summer home in Payson.

Newcomers to the annual tournament include Page, Skyline, Fountain Hills and Show Low.

Page asked to be included in the tournament after Payson High was realigned into the Class 4A Grand Canyon region with the Dust Devils.

"I guess they wanted to get a look at us before the season," PHS coach Mike Loutzenheiser said.

Queen Creek, Shadow Mountain Caesar Chavez, Phoenix North and Chandler Seton also are in the tournament to be played June 13 and 14 in Wilson Dome.

The Chandler Catholic school will bring a small-school powerhouse reputation to the tournament.

"They should be the No. 1 ranked 3A team next year," Loutzenheiser said.

The tournament format will feature the 12 teams playing on Friday in four flights.

The following day, the teams will be seeded into a tournament based on their opening round records.

"Each team will play two games on Friday and two on Saturday," Loutzenheiser said.

Summer league rules, which are usually modified to help shorten the games, traditionally include shooting free throws in only the final two minutes and the use of a running clock.

Games tip-off at 8:30 a.m. Friday and continue throughout the day until 7:30 p.m. Action resumes on Saturday at 8:30 a.m. and wraps up at 7:30 p.m. The championship will be played at 4:30 p.m. There is no admission charge.

Payson enters the tournament without the services of several stalwarts who have been a big part of the basketball program the past three seasons. Jake Swartwood, Derek Daniels, Waylon Pettet, Nick Cassuto, Nate Perna, Nathan Acord and Chris Donaldson are among the former players who graduated with the class of 2003.

Although the team will miss the services of the departed crew, the hoop cupboard is not bare.

Mike Barr, a 6-foot 7-inch, 235-pound senior/forward, returns to the fold as one of the best low-post players in recent PHS hoop history.

If Loutzenheiser can find offensive and defensive support for Barr from last year's jayvee and freshmen players, the team could become a force in the 4A conference.

Camp on tap

Also on the summer hoop agenda is a boys basketball camp June 9 to 12 in Wilson Dome. Sessions will be held 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. each day. The camp is open to boys entering third through eighth grade.

Athletes who have graduated from eighth grade are not eligible to participate, but are encouraged to attend high school open gym sessions Tuesday and Thursday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

At the youth camp, Loutzenheiser and his staff of varsity players will teach the participants the fundamentals of the game including shooting, dribbling, passing, rebounding and defense. The coach traditionally schedules games and contests to lighten the mood of the camp sessions.

"We want them to learn, but also like (basketball)," Loutzenheiser said.

Registration, which is limited to the first 75 campers, is $35 and may be completed at the parks and recreation office located at Green Valley Park.

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