If the Longhorn boys basketball team struggles through disarray in early season, it’s completely understandable.
The frenzy is because the Longhorn football team is still playing in the state tournament and the basketball players on the team have not reported for hoop duty.
Also, varsity basketball coach Kenny Hayes is the defensive coordinator in football.
Because of his double duty and the fact that both the basketball and football teams are now practicing weekdays, Hayes leaves gridiron practice around 5:30 p.m. and goes to Wilson Dome for late-night hoop sessions.
When he arrives, he has only three varsity regulars to call upon. They are Dakota Marshall, Cody Waterman and Ever Figueroa.
“We will also bring up a couple of jayvee players and some freshmen until we get our other guys back,” Hayes said.
Most of the standouts from last year’s state runner-up team will not be available to practice until Dec. 1 when the football season wraps up.
They include: Matt Wilson, Tyler Savage, Cody York and Shane Keith, who were all starters last year.
Last season, York and Keith were named to the All-East first team and Savage and Wilson received honorable mention.
York and Wilson were tapped to the 3A all-tournament team in a voting by conference coaches.
Lost from the 2007-2008 team that advanced to the state championship where the Horns lost 64-51 to Estrella Foothills are Levi Neal and Oliver Lewinson. Both graduated last spring.
The 6-foot-6-inch Wilson will probably be the player asked to shoulder the load in the low blocks where he is usually at his best.
Last season he averaged 7.5 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. He was also Payson’s third leading shot blocker with 14 rejections and was especially adept at defending from the week side.
York, a speedy guard and forward can shoot threes when called upon, but also plays the role of floor general.
Keith returns to the Longhorn fold as the starting point guard and Savage, at 6-feet, 4-inches, can rebound, score and run the floor. Last season, Savage averaged 7.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.
Pollsters are recognizing the potential of the Longhorns, ranking them second in the state in a recent preseason poll.
About the Horns, the pollsters wrote, “lost some size, but still talented enough to meet up again with Foothills.”
The Goodyear school is ranked first in the state mostly due to the presence of junior guard Corey Hawkins who averaged 23 points on last year’s title team.
Behind Payson in the rankings, published Nov. 23 in The Arizona Republic, Fort Defiance Window Rock is third, Chinle fourth and Fountain Hills fifth.
The Longhorns will have the opportunity to see if Fountain Hills is worthy of its ranking Dec. 2 in Fountain Hills. The clash will be the regular season opener for both teams.
Payson does not play at home until Dec. 9 against Florence.