Babcock McGraw: Sky's Montgomery taking leadership role seriously

A wallflower she is not.

At least not anymore.

New Chicago Sky guard Alex Montgomery is a self-described life of the party, a "big jokester."

"I'm loud, I'm goofy, I'm always cracking jokes," Montgomery said. "That's just me."

That wasn't always the case.

In high school, Montgomery, a native of the state of Washington, was a young woman of few words.

"Every conversation for me would be, 'Yes. No. OK,'" Montgomery said with a laugh. "I did not like to talk at all. I was very, very shy."

But then Montgomery got to college at Georgia Tech, and her coaches there were determined to make her a leader. A vocal leader. And that meant that Montgomery was going to need to push herself out of her comfort zone, to tear herself away from the wallflower wall. "Once I settled in at college, I started talking more, I got more comfortable with it and I kind of become a team leader," Montgomery said.

Ironically, leadership might be what Montgomery is now known for as a WNBA player. And it's what drew Sky coach Amber Stocks to Montgomery during the free agency period.

Now in her eighth season and with her third WNBA team, Montgomery has quite a reputation around the WNBA, as a vocal, motivating leader who tends to get the best out of her teammates in a positive and encouraging way.

"Our bubble is small. Everyone is our league knows everyone, and you learn quickly about how players are, and what kind of people and teammates they are," Stocks said. "And everyone just knows about Alex and the unique skill of leadership she has.

"She can lead a huddle. She's really good at taking her experiences and sharing them with younger players. We have so many young players that we need that out of Alex.

"I had many conversations with Alex in the off-season about her leadership being a strength and that one of the best things she could do for us this season is lead."

Montgomery has already been taking that role seriously.

She frequently adds words of encouragement and feedback in the huddles during games, and she says that she likes to pay special attention to the rookies, (Alaina Coates, Diamond DeShields, Gabby Williams and Linnae Williams), both on the court and off.

"When I was first in the league, I had a couple players who really helped me: Cappie Pondexter and Essence Carson," said Montgomery, who was selected 10th in the 2011 WNBA Draft by the New York Liberty. Montgomery spent four years with the Liberty before playing the last three for the San Antonio Stars. "They were very vocal with me. They told me about being patient with my game because I was always rushing everything. They helped me with my shot. They really took me under their wings.

"Our rookies this year are like sponges, and I just try to be a helping hand. I talk to them about always being competitive and never settling, that you've got to play each game like it's your last. It's always about working every day to get better."

Montgomery applies that rule to herself.

She might be seen as the wise old(er) veteran, but she isn't ready to be put out to pasture any time soon. Montgomery is only 29 and is in good health. She says that she's got a lot more basketball left in her.

"I still have a lot to work on, too," Montgomery said. "I'm supposed to be a shooter for us and the other day I went 0-for-5. I need to put in the work, too.

"I'm excited for our team. As long as we all work hard and play team ball, I think the sky is the limit with us. That's what I'm always telling everyone."

Follow Patricia on Twitter: @babcockmcgraw

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