HELENA — Over the weekend, 36 boys basketball teams made their way to Helena for the biggest summer basketball tournament to date hosted by Helena High and Helena Capital.
Not only is the tournament beneficial to the state's coaching staffs and players, but referees too. The tournament works alongside Rob Tesch’s Correct Call Camp, and 44 referees were in attendance over the weekend.
"It's a great tournament, a nice kickoff to the summer I think. And for Montana high school basketball, you know, we get our guys playing in five games. Coaches can start working with their new teams. And then in conjunction with the tournament, we have an officials camp, it's the biggest of its kind in the state. So you got 44 officials here working to get better. You got 36 Montana high school teams working to get better and their coaches. So it serves as a great kickoff to summer," Guy Almquist, Helena Capital's boys head coach, said.
Capital had four seniors graduate over the weekend who helped in win the 2022 state championship. Almquist looked for the remaining varsity players to step up over the tournament weekend.
"I think like all teams, I think coaches are here giving kids an opportunity and seeing what the next group of the next crop has in store. So trying to find roles, find strengths and weaknesses of our team and what we're going to look like. And so it's real important this summer to get a head start on that," he said.
Along with looking for potential new roles for his players, he also had the ability to test new strategies in a low-stakes environment.
"Obviously, personnel is new. And so you're trying to fit trying to see what kind of chemistry have what groups of kids play well together, what this this group might do well, and what they've got to get better at, try some different things. But yeah, it's not quite like the season. And so it's a little bit more laid back and just gives you the opportunity to learn and grow and get better," he said.
The tournament also gives the teams the ability to play schools they wouldn't typically play while in season.
"It's great to get teams from across the state. And we have all the AA schools here, but we have some teams from A and B as well, and just some different competition, new looks, different type of basketball. So it's great to have that opportunity. And we try to make sure when we're scheduling, that we're maybe playing teams that are from the other side of the state, or we don't play very often," Almquist said.
As for his JV players looking to make their varsity debut, this is a good time for them to get to know Almquist and the team.
"I think you're trying to build confidence. And that's one thing if you've got some guys who were coming back from last year's varsity team, and then some that from the JV are looking for that opportunity to join. So you're looking to build confidence, build chemistry, you know, as a coach, you're working on relationships. That's part of it, too. Just spending time with their team. So all that's important as you as you move towards next year."