Due to an increase in popularity and participation, the 2004 edition of the Copper State Jam All Schools basketball tournament will not be held in Payson as it has been since its inception in 1999.
With 48 teams set to participate, the tournament has been moved to Chandler where directors Steve and Marlow Rensch were able to find more gymnasium space.
The tournament, which will feature 24 boys and 24 girls teams from schools of all size classifications, will be held Feb. 20 to 22, 2004.
The good news for local hoop fans is the small-school version of the Jam will continue to be held in Payson.
The tournament, which can accommodate 16 boys and 16 girls teams from schools of smaller student bodies, will be Feb. 6 to 8.
According to Steve Rensch, the purpose of the tournament continues to be "to honor excellence in kids, to foster relationships between them and to create a family event that would leave all (participants) feeling good whether they won or not."
When it began four years ago, the tournament was an intimate 16-team boys event. It quickly expanded to a 32-team affair and then a 48-team showdown that drew teams from around Arizona and some from New Mexico and Nevada.
In 2002, the Rensches responded to the pleadings of many local girl players and coaches to add a girls division.
The tournament is now considered one of the finest youth boys and girls events in Arizona. Beaver Creek Middle School coach Ron Franklin is among those who praise the Jam.
"The tournament was the best in the state," he said. "My athletes are already talking about returning next year."
Alta Loma Middle School coach Chris Ledesma called the tournament "an enriching experience" for him and his players.
Steve Rensch attributes the popularity of the tournament to its festive atmosphere.
"Most of all it's good competition ... and a safe party for the whole family," he said.
The Jam's reputation for providing quality referees and security/medical support in every gym has helped the event attract top school and club teams from around the state.
The awarding of numerous prizes, including trophies embellished with copper-coated basketballs and T-shirts to every player and coach, is a much anticipated ceremony of each Jam.
Although the tournament has grown in leaps and bounds, Steve Rensch says there is room for even more hardwood action.
"Eventually, our goal is for the Jam to take place at locations throughout the Southwest," he said.