A girls summer basketball team that has on its roster all five starters from the 2003-04 Lady Longhorn squad, opened the summer campaign at the Firebirds' Women's Classic tournament June 4 and 5 in Scottsdale.
Also participating in the tournament were 12 of Arizona's finest girls hoop teams.
"Thunderbird, Chaparral, Gilbert and Seton Catholic are in it," Coach Rory Huff said. "I looked at the teams and thought, ‘What have I done getting us in that (tournament)?"
During the fray, the summer hardwood crew finished 0-4 battling top-flight summer squads.
Several of the players on the summer team are now working as assistant coaches at a town-sponsored youth basketball camp that began June 7 and wraps up June 10.
The camp in Wilson Dome is open to girls who have completed third through eighth grades. The sessions are from 9 a.m. until noon.
Following the completion of the camp, the Payson summer squad returns to competition June 11 and 12 when it travels to Lakeside to compete in the Blue Ridge tournament. Huff will enter two teams -- a varsity squad and junior varsity contingent.
Like the Firebirds' Classic, the coach anticipates the competition will be fierce in Lakeside.
"There will be about seven or eight good (Class) 5A teams there," he said.
Also on the busy off-season agenda is participation in a Flagstaff summer league. Games are played at 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. each Wednesday at Sinagua High School. Huff has again entered both jayvee and varsity teams.
Last on the hoop calender is the Lady Lumberjacks summer training camp June 25 to 27 at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.
Huff is anticipating 18 local girls will participate.
Last summer, the Payson team made its debut at the camp and Huff it was a rewarding experience.
At NAU, the players have the chance to tune their skills under the direction of NAU coaches. The squad will compete in daily scrimmages against many of the Grand Canyon region schools the team will meet during the 2004-05 season.
The players who make up the current summer team helped the Lady Horns post a 17-11 record last season and earn a fourth-place finish in the Class 4A region regular season standings.
Because Payson was a first-year member of the conference and the smallest school in 4A, the showing was considered remarkable by Huff and opposing coaches.
The team was on the verge of earning a berth to the state tournament until a 48-37 loss to Coconino ended postseason aspirations.
Huff said the rigorous summer regimen will prepare the girls for a second year in the 4A conference and a successful run at a state tournament bid.
Among the returners the coach has is the team's leading scorer from last year -- Krystal McRae.
Posting a 9.4 ppg average, she also was the Lady Horns' best shooter hitting about 46 percent of her two-point shot attempts.
The Lady Horns long-range threat, Danielle O'Haver, also returns to the fold. Last season, she cashed in on 31 of 89 three-point shots, for about 35 percent.
From the free throw line, point guard Haylee Huff -- the coach's daughter -- hit 53 of her 78 (67.9 percent) attempts. She also was the floor general dishing out an average of 4.4 assists per game.
Kodi Kepp was the defensive stopper for the Lady Horns, blocking 28 shots during the campaign. She also corralled an average of 5.9 rebounds per game and was the team's second leading score (7.6 ppg). The team's rebounding leader, Britney Owens, averaged 7.1 boards and scored at a 5.9 ppg clip.
Having McRae, Owens and Kepp on the front line gives the summer team a solid trio that can rebound, defend and score. The summer season also should provide two sophomores from last season, Tracy Fitzpatrick and Kendra Francis, the opportunity to step up their game.
Tanya Davis and Autumn Herrera are valuable all-around players who are expected to make big contributions this summer and next season.