#TGW: Full Circle

June 1, 2017

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The Full Grown Monty
WNBA veteran Alex Montgomery is doing the little things in a big way on and off the court
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word

 

That smile is still there.

It’s Alex Montgomery’s calling card. It always has been.

Even after her San Antonio Stars dropped a 77-70 decision to the Atlanta Dream on Wednesday afternoon to fall to 0-6 (Montgomery had two points, both on free throws, with a team-high-tying eight rebounds and three assists), a paint-peeling postgame speech from Stars Coach Vickie Johnson (parts of which were audible from outside the locker room), and sitting in front of her locker, basically stuffed into a corner with her back against the wall and both knees wrapped tight in ice bags in the tightly packed visitor’s locker room -- a place she’d never been either at Alexander Memorial Coliseum, where she played for Georgia Tech from 2008-11, or McCamish Pavilion, where she hadn’t played until Wednesday -- there was no dimming that beacon of a smile.

There is no dimmer switch, especially not being back in Atlanta.

“It’s been a whole year since I’ve played here,” she said. “This was actually my first time playing in this facility. Being able to play in front of my family and friends, it felt great. But we didn’t get the outcome that we wanted, so it’s kind of a bummer.”

Montgomery didn’t have many bummers in the four years she starred at Georgia Tech, during which the team went 91-41 (32-24 in ACC play), winning at least 22 games and getting to the NCAA Tournament every year. She finished in the school’s career top 10 in scoring (1,565 points), field goals made (551), field goals attempted (1,395), three-point field goals made (273) and attempted (686), free throw percentage (.774), rebounds (837), steals (226), games (124), and minutes (3,572).


 

 

She earned three All-ACC selections (two third-team, one second-team), was ACC All-Freshman, Honorable mention All-America (Kodak/WBCA), ACC All-Defensive Team, ACC Sixth Player of the Year, ACC All-Tournament Second-Team (2010), and Atlanta Tipoff Club State of Georgia College Player of the Year (2010-11). She also was named to the ACC All-Academic team.

She was such a leader that the team voted her captain her final three years and she proved an inspirational figure, coming back from a torn ACL in March 2009 but missed only seven games the following season.

She’d leave Atlanta and become the program’s first WNBA first-round draft pick (the fourth overall), when the New York Liberty selected her with the 10th overall pick in 2011 -- it’s still the earliest a Yellow Jacket has been selected.

While she didn’t get the opportunity to do a tour of McCamish -- she hadn’t even seen her picture hanging up -- coming back to Atlanta and being on the Tech campus gave Montgomery a chance to catch up.

“Some of my old teammates, we actually went out to dinner (Tuesday) night,” she said. “I had an opportunity to talk to the recruits and the team. I think they’ll have a pretty good team this year.”

She was very proud of the ‘16-17 team.

“I follow Coach Jo on Facebook and Twitter and every time they’re playing I keep an eye on the score,” she said, although she admitted that she stopped short of talking too much trash, especially during the postseason. “It was pretty fun. I’ll put it like that. It was pretty fun.”

Despite the Stars’ struggles, Montgomery is finding life pretty fun in San Antonio, which acquired her in a trade from New York on May 14, 2015.

“San Antonio is great,” she said. “I’ve made a lot of friends. Everybody there is friendly, great food, great housing, I love it.”

On the court, she’s okay with not being the No. 1 scoring option as she was on the Flats. She IS getting others involved, leading the team with 16 assists, and is among the Stars’ leaders in hustle categories like rebounding, where she pulls down a team-best 7.0 rebounds per game, offensive rebounds (2.3 ORPG), and steals (she’s tied for fourth with four).

That’s not out of character for Montgomery, who, in addition to twice leading Tech in scoring, twice led the team in rebounding and once in blocked shots.

“I’m doing whatever it takes to help my team out to be successful,” she said. “I am the defensive captain. Overall, I do a little bit of everything.”

Alex laughs when told she’s the third most-experienced player on the Stars’ roster, which has six players with two-or-fewer years of WNBA experience.

“I don’t feel old. I don’t look old,” she said, flashing that smile. “Age is just a number. I feel good so I’ll just keep doing what I’ve been doing and take care of my body. It’s actually my seventh year. It’s gone by quick.”

She’s taken the mantle of leaderships for the young team.

“I look back on my rookie year and how I was impatient,” she said. “I tell them ‘Just let the game come to you. Don’t get frustrated when you’re not scoring.’ I know some of our rookies were top scorers in college (like rookie Kelsey Plum, NCAA’s all-time scoring leader) but the WNBA is a totally different game. It’s more physical, bigger guards height-wise, and traveling, and all that gets to you but I tell them keep your head up and move forward.”

While Alex loves San Antonio and has enjoyed the experience of playing in pro leagues in France, Brazil and Israel, her heart remains in her home state of Washington. She’s taken steps toward going back there after her playing days are over as following the WNBA season she’ll resume her duties as head coach of the girls’ basketball team at Steilacoom High School, in Steilacoom, Washington, about 30 minutes from where she grew up in Tacoma.

“The first year was fun,” she said of her debut with the Sentinels, who started 0-5, but then went 8-10 the rest of the way. “It was frustrating, it took a lot of patience but I had a lot of fun with it.”

Montgomery’s admitted she’s found herself teaching and saying things that she heard from her playing days at Georgia Tech under coach MaChelle Joseph.

“I have,” she said, with a laugh. “I kind of find myself acting like her coaching. I had fun.”

She hopes to act like Joseph when it comes to successfully building a program. She’s certainly got that same hunger.

“We actually finished fourth in the playoffs. We didn’t make it to state, though,” she said. “I’m looking for the championship this year.”