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Bruin committed to Yale, helps build 11-game win streak

By CAROL STUART

Brentwood Home Page

When Jack Montague was about two years old, his father moved the furniture around in their Miami home to give him room to dribble a basketball. Now a senior point guard for Brentwood High, Montague has parlayed his basketball skill into a scholarship at Yale University and a stellar season  that has the Bruins on an 11-game win streak heading into Friday’s Battle of the Woods at Ravenwood.

Bruin committed to Yale, helps build 11-game win streak

By CAROL STUART

Brentwood Home Page

When Jack Montague was about two years old, his father moved the furniture around in their Miami home to give him room to dribble a basketball.

Now a senior point guard for Brentwood High School, Montague has parlayed his basketball skill into a scholarship at Yale University starting this fall and a stellar season so far that has the Bruins on an 11-game win streak.

Jack Montague helped take Brentwood to the sectional round last season as a junior. (File photos  by Peg Fredi for BHP)
 

“We lived in Miami and he said it was too hot to be outside, so he’d bring me in and he would move the furniture around in the house for me to dribble. It’s been a big part of my life,” Montague said.

When the Bruins put their 4-0 district mark on the line at cross-town rival Ravenwood on Friday night, Montague will be perhaps the key player in the matchup against the Raptors and their own standout point guard, Devin Robinson.

“Jack is pretty much the whole engine,” veteran coach Dennis King said of his BHS team. “We’ve got some great pieces to go with him. But when he’s out of the game, we become very average. This year he has made pretty much every big shot we need to stay in ballgames, he hits critical free throws, and there’s no fear of any press that people throw on us.”

In fact, King says looking back in his 35 years as a head coach, while some memories may dim, he “can’t imagine having as a complete a point guard as he’s been.”

Some might have been better as a defensive point guard or others a little better at passing, but “he’s like a high school version of Steve Nash,” King said. “He just does what he has to do, and he has a very high level of understanding of how the game should be played.”

Montague, who committed to Division I Ivy League school Yale this summer, said he wants to eventually coach basketball.

“Well, he’s actually an unpaid assistant coach right now,” King said. “We listen to him, and I’ve had maybe three players in those 35 years where I would even allow them to talk in the huddle. Jack has such a great feel for the rhythm of the game and what needs to be called and what we need to do. We’re all ears when he has something to say.”

Montague said he likes his position for that very reason, because he’s the coach on the court.

“I like to be the leader on the court,” he said of playing point guard. “You need to know where everybody needs to be, you need to know every play for every position to help everybody. When you can’t hear the coach, you have to make your own decision and use quick thinking.”

District 11-AAA boys

Brentwood        4-0   17-4

Independence   3-1   15-4

Ravenwood       2-2   13-4

Hillsboro           2-3   9-11

Franklin            2-3   8-11

Centennial        1-5   7-12

 

Asked to give a scouting report on himself, Jack said:

“I’d say my biggest strength is my basketball I.Q., knowing the game, knowing how to run it, keeping people involved, and clock management. I have very good court vision and am a very selfless player. But, when I need to score, I know when to step it up and when to carry my team. I like to get everybody involved early on. My weakness is probably rebounding, and I could use more strength.”

Ravenwood Coach Patrick Whitlock said Montague was one of the better players in District 11-AAA, just like the Raptors’ Robinson.

“I think a lot of coaches will use the analogy if you cut the head off something the rest of the body is going to die. I think it’s the same thing for both teams,” Whitlock said. “I think without Jack, while they have a lot of good players over there, I think Jack is the guy who makes them go and I think his biggest asset is he makes the players around him better.

“He’s had nights where he might not score a whole lot, but they’re still able to win. And he’s a good shooter, he’s a good ball-handler and he runs their team. He’s a perfect fit for Coach King’s system because he finds the guys in the places where they’re supposed to be.”

Montague and Robinson have been playing against each other since the 6th grade, with Jack at Brentwood Middle and Devin at Sunset Middle. They have also battled in AAU basketball several times each year, but only once last summer, with Jack playing for the Tennessee Travelers and Devin for Team Nashville.

“I respect his game a lot,” Robinson said. “He’s not as quick as me, but he plays with a like a hesitation to his game which really makes him a tough player to guard. And if you give him any space, his jump shot is pure and he’s not missing.

“I have to make sure I get through all screens on him. They really do a good job of running back-door plays and … and they’ll burn you on that.”

Montague is an unpaid assistant coach, says BHS coach Dennis King.

While Montague has been carrying a basketball around with him since his toddler days, he also played football from peewee till his freshman year at BHS. His father, in fact, was a semi-pro football player but didn’t pick up basketball till after high school, playing with his friends in his mid-20s.

Jack suffered his third concussion in the ninth grade playing football and decided to focus on basketball after that.

He said Yale University became interested in him over the summer, watched him at travel games and were really the only school really interested in recruiting him early. He attended a camp over the summer and said he loved the campus and facilities, and got along with the players and coaches.

“It felt right, and just the whole opportunity to go to Yale, I couldn’t pass that up,” said Montague, who has a 26 on the ACT and a 3.8 GPA. “I committed early. I guess it’s good that I didn’t have the stress over the basketball season, having to play well and worry about college, being stress-free.”

King said the Yale coach made a special trip to watch Jack in the Ensworth Holiday Shootout during Christmas break. And he noted the Ivy League plays some good basketball.

“They’re very excited about having a kid like Jack on their team. He is a cerebral player, so I think they’ll find a spot for a kid with his instincts to help that program,” the BHS coach said.

While Brentwood is focused right now on winning a District 11-AAA championship, the team has gelled after coming back from some early injuries and some close losses.

“We have four losses and two are by one point and two by five points, and a couple of games I was out and Cody was out,” Montague said. “If we had everything going at the beginning, we could be undefeated.”

But the Bruins are definitely wanting to get at least one step farther in the postseason than last year, when BHS almost won its sectional game.

“It was really a depressing loss, since we were up the whole entire game,” Jack said. “Coach King has 22.9 seconds written up in the locker room. We were down one with the ball to go ahead with 22.9 seconds left, and from there it went downhill.

Related story: Raptors’ Robinson steps up his game

“With Brentwood never having been to the state tournament, it’s always in the back of my mind. This year with me being the only senior, I think it would be cool to make it to state. That’s pretty much what we’re going after, but right now our key is to win the district.”

Montague said he didn’t feel as much like a “true leader” last year since there were a couple of seniors on the team, and he was just a junior. “Since this year I’m the only senior and since I’m the point guard and have a lot of basketball experience, I feel like I’ve developed a lot of strength in that leadership role.”

Montague said the key to beating Ravenwood will be executing on offense and not making careless turnovers, plus not giving up easy transition baskets. Calling the games with Ravenwood “huge” is an understatement, he added.

“It’s always the biggest game in the year,” Montague said. “Coach King always schedules Ravenwood on Friday, and just our student bodies and fans, as cross-town rivals, it’s just incredible. The gyms are always so crowded, and the students like to get in your head.”

King said he believes the series with the Raptors “is kind of replacing the Franklin rivalry,” which was THE game on the schedule for 25 years and is still a big game.

“But this one has a little different flavor to it. It’s kind of a backyard, kind of a sibling rivalry kind of thing, and it’s huge,” he said.

 

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