The right speed
Mavericks' Kame finally understands when to go fast, when to slow down
When Clay Kame was playing basketball at Central High School, his offensive assignment was pretty simple: Get from Point A to Point B as fast as you can.
And for Kame, who also had that mentality on the football field and track for the Warriors, it was easy to do with his speed. He got easy buckets for Central simply by outrunning the defense in the Warriors’ up-tempo offense.
All that changed when he signed with Colorado Mesa University to play basketball. After his redshirt season, Kame got little playing time his freshman year, then last season played in 23 games. But his “catch me if you can” tendencies crept back into his game, and his minutes were limited.
Now a fourth-year junior, the 6-foot-1 guard has figured out when he can scream down the floor on the break and when he needs to throttle it down.
“I think everybody goes through a process, everybody has to change their game a little bit,” Kame said. “It was really hard for me. Three years now of actually seeing it and realizing, it’s funny how it just became a realization, the fact that I do have to slow down sometimes.
“It’s not so much slowing down, it’s making better decisions when you get there. That’s what took more (time) than anything.”
The past month, Kame has been a vital cog for the Mavericks (11-3, 8-2 RMAC), who play Western State Colorado University (7-7, 6-4) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Brownson Arena.
His minutes have steadily climbed to where he’s playing about 20 minutes per game. His production is up and so is his confidence.
“That’s really been a big part of it, confidence,” Kame said, “being able to go out there and do the things the coaches are asking and execute to the best of my ability.”
There were times in the past where Kame would grab a defensive rebound and tear down the sideline, only to get trapped in the corner when the defense recovered. He’d turn the ball over trying to force a pass and often would get pulled out of the game and lectured on the bench.
That doesn’t happen much these days.
“Some of that is not making a decision quick enough,” Kame said of those games early in his career. “And then I second-guessed myself. Now it’s becoming something a lot easier, a lot smoother. It just takes a while to transition, and I think everybody goes through that.”
When Andy Shantz, the Mavericks’ associate head coach who runs the offense and is the recruiting coordinator, watched Kame play in high school, he knew there was something there. The only question was: Could it be harnessed?
“He had such a hard time figuring out what pace to play at,” Shantz said. “Usually with our guys in the motion offense, I want to get them playing at a quicker pace with their cuts.
“Clay was on the other side of that. He was the one going so fast, I had to reel him back in, but he’s such a good athlete.
“When he puts it on the floor, there hasn’t been one team that can keep him out of the paint. Now he’s seeing (the floor) so well, he makes passes I haven’t seen him make the past 2½ years.”
Friday night at CSU-Pueblo, Kame played 26 minutes off the bench, scoring 11 points and finding teammates for six assists. In the 78-61 victory, the Mavericks had 27 assists on 32 made baskets.
“That’s fun,” Kame said with a grin. “That was one of the funnest games I’ve ever been a part of, the way everybody played together.
“That’s been the best part for me, to get in the game and feel like we’re all being contributors, and I’m finally contributing. It’s meant a lot to me, this season and progressing.”
The 11-point game was his third in double figures this season, and he’s averaging 4.4 points and 2.1 rebounds per game. The biggest number for him, though, is his assist-to-turnover ratio. He’s one assist shy of a 2-to-1 ratio, with 47 assists and 24 turnovers.
That’s a far cry from a year ago when he was inserted into a game against Adams State with the instructions to take care of the ball after the Mavs had a flurry of turnovers that led to layups for the Grizzlies.
“His first possession he goes down, makes an around-the-back pass for a turnover,” Shantz said. “Clay, who does that? You get an opportunity and you go around the back and turn it over the first possession? He wasn’t mature enough to see the difference.
“This last month, it’s clicked. I want him on the floor all the time.”