To be clear, De Beque boys basketball is off to a hot start. But the Dragons' 6-0 launching point is much more than that. This team is in the midst of its best season in at least a decade — and maybe even longer than that.
No De Beque boys hoops team has been this good since the squad that went to the state tournament in 2004.
"This year is way different than my previous two," said junior Dillon Bumgardner. "Winning six games prior to Christmas break hasn't been done by a boys team in many years."
Here's some context: De Beque is 6-0 this season. The team won a combined six games over the past three seasons. Since 2010-11, the Dragons have endured three winless seasons, going a combined 14-124 over those seven campaigns. From 2006-07 to 2016-17, the school's boys basketball team was 29-181.
So, yeah, things are a little different this year.
"All the hard work that our team has put in to succeed is finally paying off," said Wesley Ryan, a freshman.
De Beque, a school of 44 students situated just off I-70 between Glenwood Springs and Grand Junction, plays in Class 1A. But the Dragons compete during the regular season in the 2A/1A Western Slope League — which includes powers like Paonia, Meeker, Hotchkiss, and others.
"We weren't able to compete at that level," said Rod Graham, De Beque's coach who is also the school's athletic director. "We didn't have the personnel and the experience."
"We feel now that we're a little bit more capable of competing at that level," Graham said.
And there are two major reasons for that: First, their sophomores became juniors. That group includes Bumgardner (7.7 points, 7.0 rebounds per game), Nando Candeleria (7.2 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 3.2 steals), and Garrett Jenkins (5.2 points, 6.5 rebounds).
"We've had two of our boys that are juniors this year were all-league honorable mention and all-league selections the last two years," said Graham, who is now in his seventh season.
Second, a trio of star freshmen — all with big-time club experience — have joined the team.
Brennan Rigsby, a 5-9 guard, leads the team with 20.3 points per game, and is also averaging three steals. He's the grandson of Dave Rigsby and Kim Latham, who both played basketball at De Beque, and the cousin of former Fruita Monument star Gunner Rigsby, who is now running track at the University of Colorado.
Graham said Rigsby is a "kid who can shoot deep threes and take the ball to the hole."
"We're not used to having a 3-point threat," Graham added. "We haven't had a 3-point threat for three years."
Ryan, a 6-1 inside presence, is second at 16.7 points per game, and also leads the team with 10.3 rebounds.
"Wes Ryan has worked miracles for our post game," Graham said. "We haven't really had a strong post game."
Jaden Jordan, who is 6-foot-6, is the team's sixth man, and is averaging 5.7 points, 2.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists.
"He's the most efficient player on the team," Graham said.
The freshmen have "stepped right in," Graham said, "and they probably are at a junior-level coming in as freshmen."
"There has been a pretty big adjustment from middle school to high school," Jordan said. "The kids are bigger and faster but I think that me and the other freshman have done a good job preparing ourselves to play at the level. We have made a great adjustment to high school and are playing at a high level."
With only six games under their belt, the team is still working on jelling.
"There's a lot of dynamite out there in small packages that's fixing to be lit," Graham said. "It's a tough deal with these kids to work as a unit. It's coming. There's still a little bit of work to do, but it's coming."
Said Bumgardner: "I'm really enjoying playing with the make up of our team the way it is. All aspects of the game are here, now we just need to utilize what we have."
Once they do, it's quite possible this team makes a postseason run. There is some history they can use as a guide. De Beque's boys team made the state tournament from 2002-04, lost in the regional round in 1999 — and won a state championship in 1998.
"We want to finish in the upper half of our 1A/2A league and to go deep into the playoffs," Bumgardner said, "hopefully ending the season on center court at state playoffs being the champions."
Added Rigsby: "I'm looking forward to the crazy, intense games."