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Only a select few seniors wrapping up their women's college basketball careers in early April can enjoy a few certainties. After a deep NCAA tournament run, maybe a spot in the Final Four, players such as Maya Moore, Angel McCoughtry and Tina Charles head to the WNBA draft, which for them is a celebration of sorts. Even if some strange basketball Jedi mind trick somehow kept any of them from being drafted No. 1 overall, no amount of reverse mojo would keep them from No. 2.
|Alex Montgomery led Georgia Tech to a school-record 24 victories this season and a program-best 13-game winning streak.|
But for the majority of players who hope that the final buzzer of their senior season isn't the last time they hear that sound inside the lines, this time of year can be gut-wrenching. Very little is communicated to them about the reality of a player's draft prospects or what happens next.
Georgia Tech senior Alex Montgomery is a bona fide double-double machine from a power conference. She led the Yellow Jackets in scoring (13.9 ppg) and rebounding (8.6 rpg) this season, and the 6-foot-1 wing forward has designs on playing ball for a while longer.
Despite being one of just 40 finalists for the Women's Basketball Coaches Association All-America team and scoring 1,565 points in her career, good enough for sixth all time at Georgia Tech, Montgomery isn't a sure thing in the WNBA draft on Tuesday. She has received some feedback through Yellow Jackets coach MaChelle Joseph, but nothing that would allow Montgomery to relax and enjoy the ride.
"They say they love my rebounding and ability to play the 3 and 4 [positions]," Montgomery said of the feedback she has received, "and my leadership and how talkative I am on the court."
That talkative nature and self-confidence hasn't always been a strength for Montgomery. She was highly ranked coming out of high school, 15th by ESPN HoopGurlz in the 2007 class, but was overshadowed in Washington state by Angie Bjorklund, the sharpshooter for the Tennessee Lady Vols who is projected anywhere from the late first round through the second round Tuesday.
"In high school I was really shy," Montgomery said. "I still am shy, but you just have to grow up some time and be a leader."
Montgomery also knows her confidence and leadership need to take another big step up if she is to make it as a pro.
"I need to have an attitude of being the best player," Montgomery added. "I mean, I am a great player, but I have to have that mentality of 'give me the ball.'"
As rock-solid as her stats are, Montgomery is very honest that she has often settled for good when she is capable of great."I'm OK with 15 [points] and 10 [rebounds]," Montgomery said, "but I need that hunger to step up and get 20 or more sometimes."
Montgomery's approach -- even more than her talent -- is the reason to believe that Montgomery will be successful. She isn't looking to get rich playing basketball. She has an interest in coaching -- Montgomery participated in two days of seminars in the So You Want To Be A Coach program at the WBCA Convention at the Final Four in Indianapolis -- but that isn't about the financial benefits, either.
"I want to make an impact on young people's lives and be a role model," said Montgomery, who feels the ACC prepared her well for the next level. "I just love basketball."
According to Joseph, several WNBA teams see Montgomery coming off the board in the first round and few see her sliding far in the second round in any scenario. But the draft is far less predictable than the NBA, especially after the WNBA cut rosters from 13 players to 11 before the 2009 season, which prevents teams from carrying a player who might need some extra time to make the transition.
The most important factor for Montgomery, according to Joseph, is finding a team that needs her. She has put an incredible amount of work into her game in college. Even with all her athletic gifts, including the versatility to step out and knock down the 3-pointer, Joseph points to Montgomery's work ethic above all else. She completely transformed her scrawny build and seems unaffected by an anterior cruciate ligament tear in March 2009.
Montgomery is also interested in looking into her prospects for playing overseas. At Georgia Tech, she traveled with the team to the Bahamas, Paris and Tanzania, and she would be ready to go overseas if basketball could lead to seeing the world.
If former Yellow Jackets teammate Brigitte Ardossi is any indicator, Montgomery will have opportunities. Ardossi, a 6-2 forward and native of Australia, led Tech in scoring and rebounding in her senior season and was drafted in the second round, 21st overall, by the Atlanta Dream. While she didn't make the regular-season roster, she had a very solid rookie season in Europe, playing for the Cote d'Opale Basket Calais (France). She made the starting rotation and averaged 8.4 points and 3.9 rebounds per game.
Where Montgomery's journey takes her next is certainly uncertain, but her poise and passion have her destined for success.
Chris Hansen is the national director of prospects for ESPN HoopGurlz and covers girls' basketball and women's college basketball prospects nationally for ESPN.com. He is a member of the McDonald's All-American team selection committee. Hansen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.