When it comes to basketball, Clay Kame might be one of the most charitable men in the Grand Valley.
The 27-year-old has had his hand in success at schools across the area, both as a player and as a coach. Kame was a four-year starter at point guard for Central High School before moving on to Colorado Mesa University, where he led the Mavericks in steals his senior season. After serving as an assistant for Sam Provenza and the Grand Junction High School girls team, he found his calling at yet another school in the area in May 2017.
A little more than a year and a half later, the Palisade boys basketball program, which hasn't made the playoffs since 2015, is thriving under its energetic second-year coach.
When Kame took over the program, Palisade had gone only 27-41 under the previous coach and needed a new direction.
The first year wasn't easy and the Bulldogs finished 6-17. However, his second year has been much smoother and the Bulldogs are off to a 12-5 start and, at 4-2, is one of the better teams in the competitive Class 4A Western Slope League.
When asked why his second year has seen such an improvement, he pointed toward a pair of senior starters, guard Sebastian Campbell and forward Zane Haas, and simply stated, "These guys."
Campbell and Haas are only two of the many experienced players on Palisade's roster. The Bulldogs have six seniors and six juniors with no sophomores or freshmen on its current squad.
As a result, Kame hasn't had to change anything about his coaching strategy in year two. The stability is paying off so far this season.
"All the things we worked on last year are starting to show," Kame said. "They're improving, still, they're evolving, but we're doing the same things we did last year. We've just got kids that are stepping into roles."
Those roles include facilitator, which Campbell has worked his way into and is performing with more confidence than ever, and big man, a bill that the 6-foot-8 Haas fits perfectly. Campbell is averaging 8.7 points and four assists per game and Haas is averaging 11.1 points and nine rebounds per game.
"We're a much more focused team," Campbell said. "We've all stepped into our roles understanding what we bring to the table, not trying to play above ourselves."
Palisade has other crucial playmakers, such as junior Watts Erb, who's second on the team with 9.4 points and 4.7 rebounds per game; junior Kevin Loya, who averages 6.7 points; and senior Logan Tarman, who scores approximately five points per game and has been responsible for some big baskets for the Bulldogs.
Having such a wide array of playmakers is key for Palisade, but the team's chemistry is especially significant to its success.
"We have a lot more experience, and I think that brought us together a lot," Haas said. "We all trust each other."
Only time will tell if Palisade can catch up to undefeated Glenwood Springs in WSL play, but no matter what, the 2018-2019 season will go down as Palisade's most successful in nearly half a decade thanks to its senior class.
Even though the reality of losing such a class is looming, the program's future appears to be as bright as it's been in a long time. That's because this team's impact will extend beyond its current roster.
"As a coach, you always have to look forward a little bit," Kame said. "It's gonna hurt losing this group of seniors, but it's nice to have a group that can really instill pride and show the other kids how to play."
"Just because we have a roster of seniors and juniors doesn't mean all of our sophomores and freshmen aren't in the stands watching. They're learning how to play the game the same way."
The Bulldogs' two league loses are to Glenwood Springs and Steamboat Springs. Palisade takes on Eagle Valley tonight, then gets its second shot at the Sailors on Saturday on the road.
Chasing a league title is a goal but right now the Bulldogs are in solid playoff position, ranked No. 12 in the Ratings Percentage Index.