Payson's road to a third successive berth in the 3A boys state championship game winds through a summer program of weight training, open gym, skills camps and tournaments.
The first steps along that demanding path were taken May 30 and 31 at Shadow Mountain High School where the Longhorns managed to win the consolation championship of the Matador Invitational.
During the fray, Payson defeated Washington, Scottsdale Christian, Desert Ridge, Trevor Browne and Moon Valley.
Payson's two losses were to Chandler Seton Catholic and Buena.
On opening day, during which a round robin was conducted, the PHS summer team was at full strength.
But on the second day, four players departed the team to participate in an individual skills football camp at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.
They included Matt Wilson, David Carlen, Tyler Savage and Bryan Burke.
"We were shorthanded without them," coach Kenny Hayes said.
Including Burke, a 6-foot-5-inch, 215-pound senior, on a list of basketball players might sound a bit strange to most fans.
That's because for the past three seasons, he's been one of the most successful grapplers in the Longhorn wrestling program.
But at the onset of the summer he surprised almost everyone by turning out for the basketball team.
"We are working with him, he has some talent," Hayes said.
At Shadow Mountain, a foursome of team members stepped up to fill the void created by the loss of Wilson, Carlen, Savage and Burke.
They included Shane Keith, Cody York, Dakota Marshall and Ryan Hintze.
Hayes cited Keith for his play-making and York for his scoring.
Marshall, who can play either the 4 or 5 position, drew praise for his all-around heady play and Hintze, Hayes said, "took the ball to the basket really well."
Next up for the off-season hardwooders is the Flagstaff Summer Invitational to be held June 13 and 14.
The players are also scheduled to participate June 27 and 28 in the Grand Canyon University team camp.
Also, weight-training sessions are held from 6 to 8:30 a.m. Monday through Thursday in the old gymnasium.