Aug. 6, 2011
By Jon Cooper
The bright lights of New York City can be as distracting literally as they can be figuratively. Even for the most focused of people.
Former Georgia Tech hoops star Alex Montgomery, a four-time All-ACC selection and first-round pick (10th overall) of the New York Liberty in the 2011 Draft, learned that early on.
“When I was in Times Square, I was so shocked by all the lights and how bright it was that I just stood there with my mouth wide open, like, “Oh my god, this is crazy,'” she recalled before the Liberty’s Aug. 2nd game against the Atlanta Dream at Philips Arena. “I had to catch myself, ‘Okay, I live here now. I have to keep walking.'”
Montgomery has arrived as a New Yorker, admitting she’s come to loathe, or at least become resigned to, the wide-eyed, sky-staring, tourists that clog up the sidewalks of New York.
“Yeah. You could say that,” she said with a laugh. “When I see them I just keep walking and I’m like, ‘Oh, they’re new here.'”
The Tacoma, Wash., native, who became only the 23rd Yellow Jacket to score 1,000 career points, is still new with the Liberty, as she’s one of three rookies on the roster, and, like most rookies, is having to earn her playing time coming off the bench.
That’s not too big an adjustment for the 2010 ACC Sixth Player of the Year. Getting used to playing against the best of the best on a daily basis as well as the system of Liberty Head Coach John Whisenant has been tougher. But it’s also made her a smarter and more complete player.
“I think I understand the game more with each and every day we go through practice and each and every game we play,” said Montgomery, who is averaging 2.6 points in 8.7 minutes, while shooting 39.1 percent, 50.0 from three. “As we watch film I understand the game more.”
That understanding meant having to diversify her game.
“I think I had to change my game just to be a more attacking guard instead of just settling for jumpers and being more aggressive on the defensive end, too.”
Her game may be new but getting to the game in New York still has a similar feel as getting to them in Atlanta. She lives about 20 minutes outside of Manhattan and drives everywhere.
“We don’t take the trains unless we really have to,” she said. “We drive to practice, we drive to the games. Most of us drive. It’s not a big difference.”
There also hasn’t been a big difference in her reception coming back to Atlanta. Despite playing for the opposing squad, in her three visits with the LIberty (they were 2-1 against the Dream), Montgomery has been met warmly. Having her own cheering section at each game has helped. She had to leave around 75 tickets for her initial return with the Liberty on June 5th. She left some 20 seats for her latest visit.
“I’m happy to be back in Atlanta,” she said. “As a pro, it’s really good to come back. All my friends and family are here to watch me play. I’m happy to see my college teammates because I miss them a lot. All of them.”
Montgomery still finds time to get back to Georgia Tech, as she is hard at work on finishing her degree in History (she’s a year away), and was on campus the day of the Liberty’s game with the Dream.
“I had to take a final to close out one of my classes,” she said. “Then I saw three of my old teammates — Me-Me Walthour, Mo Bennett and Sasha Goodlett — at the Athletic Association and a couple of the staff.”
With nearly a year of pro ball under her belt, Montgomery has the opportunity to play mentor, sharing her experiences to her teammates, who also may harbor dreams of playing pro.
“I just tell them to stay focused, set goals for themselves and just do what they have to do,” she said. “If they want to be great, do great things. That’s all they have to do.”