Sister Act II
Kondalia Montgomery brings a familiar name, different game to Georgia Tech
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
It’s difficult being a legacy at any age.
Imagine how difficult it is being a legacy as an 18-year-old incoming college freshman to your older sister, who happens to have had a stellar career within that school’s program.
Kondalia Montgomery, a 5-7 point guard from Tacoma, Wash., is the sister of legendary shooting guard Alex Montgomery, who graced Alexander Memorial Coliseum from 2008-11, scored 1,565 points (seventh in program history), was a three-time all-ACC selection, and a three-year team captain on her way to being a first-round WNBA Draft pick (No. 10 overall).
Kondalia is not consumed by or, even concerned with, living up to Alex’s standard.
By now, she’s used to it, having already done it at Lincoln High School, where she followed sisters Alex and Jazzmn. She did just fine getting out of their shadow, joining both as 3A Pierce County League MVP and doing them one better by leading the Abes to the state semifinals — the school’s first such berth since 1980. Overall, she’d lead Lincoln to three straight state league titles and back-to-back district crowns, winning league MVP as a senior compiling 10.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 4.0 apg, and 4.0 spg.
With sights set on college and playing in the ACC, she’s determined to once again create her own identity.
“I’m going to carve out my own niche because we’re different people,” said Kondalia. “Alex is more of an offensive player and I’m mainly a defensive player. But my offense is coming. So I’ll break more records defensively.”
Promising to be better defensively than Alex, an ACC all-defensive team selection as a senior, is quite a goal. But if Kondalia has proven anything it’s that she can be stubborn in doing what she sets her mind to. At Lincoln, she was two-time league Defensive Player of the Year (2016, ‘17), and before that stubbornly fought calls to get on the court in the first place.
She didn’t start playing basketball until she was 14, focusing her athletic energy on soccer. Finally, Jazzmn helped her change her mind.
“One day I was in the gym with my sister Jazzmn and we were getting up shots,” Kondalia recalled. “She was talking to me saying, ‘Basketball can open up a lot of gates for you. Say you don’t want to play basketball after college, there are still other things you can do because of the experience you will go through with basketball.’ I gave it a try and I liked it. I didn’t think I would be able to memorize the plays but the more you do it the more you get it. I was like, ‘I can do this.’”
Kondalia didn’t need to listen to anyone when it came to choosing a college. She chose Georgia Tech based on her own criteria and her own research. It was a decision based on more than just basketball.
“I’m here first for school and then basketball,” she said. “I did my research. I want to be an engineer. I looked up the specifics and Georgia Tech is first for engineering.”
MaChelle Joseph was the final determinant.
Kondalia remembered the bond she and Joseph formed when they first met, during recruitment of Alex. Kondalia was 10. Joseph’s brand of coaching and her personality, the things that Montgomery first liked about her, have not changed.
“Coach Jo was very important because she just kept it real,” Kondalia said. “She told me, ‘This is how it’s going to be and what we’re looking for.’ When I got here her words matched up with what she was saying in the recruiting process. I need someone who’s going to be serious and not sugar-coat things. She great for that. She gets to the point.”
She also doesn’t sugar-coat how happy she is to have Montgomery in her program.
“I am very excited to add Kondalia to this outstanding class of student-athletes,” Joseph said. “I have known her since she was 10 years old and have total confidence in her work ethic and desire to be the best she can be.”
Joseph’s getting her point across in teaching the basics of her system and has an attentive audience in Montgomery.
“You have to pay attention to the details,” she said. “If you don’t pay attention to details you will likely get lost. If you don’t watch film you’re not going to know what to do in practice because film is correlated with practice. So you have to pay attention. If you don’t get something make sure you ask. If you still don’t get it ask another person. It’s all about communication.”
She’s also learned what not to listen to, a skill she credits to being the youngest of five — three sisters, Ashley (33), Jazzmn (31), and Alex (29), and a brother, Tony (19) — in a very competitive family. She remembers competing in everything from drawing contests with Tony to movie trivia contests, which the siblings still do when together.
“At a lot of family events they would all be around, they’d be picking on me,” she recalled. “But I managed to zone it out and it’s helped me throughout the years. I don’t pay attention to the crowd. I can just zone it out and listen to what my coach says. I can hear my coach. It was kind of a good thing that they picked on me.”
Another key facet for the point guard is her vision and ability to strategize and conceptualize. She’s been an avid chess player since being taught the game in seventh grade by one of her teachers.
“I like it because it’s a thinking game,” she said. “You can set up your opponent to make them think you’re going to make this move but you’re setting them up for a different move.”
Kondalia’s ready to set Georgia Tech up for a big move forward.
“We went through practices and lifting so we’ll know what to do, what to look forward to when the fall season comes.”