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Still an Indian Despite Mistake

Posted: January 28, 2008 1:58 a.m.
Updated: March 30, 2008 2:02 a.m.
 
In a couple of months, parking spots around the Hart High School campus are going to become hard to come by.

Note-scribbling, radar-gun pointing types will infiltrate the school, doing their best to keep the drool off their chins as they watch senior pitcher Michael Montgomery showcase his Major League Baseball draft pick potential against Valencia, Saugus, Canyon, West Ranch and the others.
They'll come because he's left-handed, because he can throw 90-plus miles per hour, because by being given a scholarship to one of the premier NCAA20college baseball programs in the nation, Cal State Fullerton, Montgomery has legitimized his great stuff and because he's 6-foot-5.
Well, here's some free advice for those scouts. Why wait until baseball seasons gets started?
If they really want a scouting report on the senior, they ought to start hanging around the Hart High gym sometime before basketball season comes to an end.
Want to know how he's going to deal with adversity? How he's going to react after a slump, an injury, the other ups and downs of a career in sports? Check out the Hart student section for Tuesday's game between the Indians and the Foothill League's first-place Valencia Vikings.
Wait for the first Hart fastbreak basket.
Watch the senior jump up out of his seat.
Montgomery, dismissed from the Hart basketball team for reasons not made public three days after a breakdown against the Vikings in the last meeting between the two league rivals, the Foothill League's former leading scorer has taken his lumps like - well, like a professional.
Cheering from the stands.
I was there for Hart's first game post-dismissal, a 68-61 Indians home loss against Canyon two weeks ago.
The story of him being kicked off the team the previous day had been exposed that morning. I figured there'd be about as good of a chance as seeing Valencia High co-head coach Rocket Collins - who was coaching a game on the other side of town - in the stands as there was of seeing the forward.
Imagine the questions.
"Why aren't you playing?"
"What did you do?"
"Why did you do that?"
But he dealt with it.
They're still his teammates.
"Sitting at home, trying to figure out what to do, there was nothing else I'd rather do," he says. "I still care. I still want to see how they're going to do in the games."
When The Signal called Montgomery the day before seeking comment about the news of his release and left a message on his cell phone, we expected him to avoid us on that, too.
If he did call back, we assumed - call us jaded by past bad apples - he'd have nothing but excuses.
He didn't.
He accepted the punishment handed down to him from head coach Tom Kelly, days after receiving a technical foul and an intentional foul in Hart's 82-55 loss against the Vikings and being kicked out of the next day's practice.
For Kelly, who hasn't publically acknowledged the reason for Montgomery's dismissal, it was a brave decision to make.
Montgomery, nearly as talented on the basketball court as the baseball diamond, averaged exactly 20 points per game.
It's irreplaceable.
Add Hart's next two leading scorers - Levi Wenrich and Brad Wyche - together and you get 20.5 points per game.
Montgomery scored 37 in a game this season. Only twice did he fail to reach double-digits on the season, scoring nine points both times.
Then there's the rebounding.
Montgomery averaged a team-best 7.7 per game.
Without the forward, the defending Foothill League champions have won just two of their past four league games, one victory coming against last-place Golden Valley and another a 14-point comeback over West Ranch.
They will not repeat as champions and likely will not have the goods to win against first-place Valencia Tuesday.
It's unfortunate for the other players.
But sometimes doing the right thing is more important than winning basketball games and Kelly, as a molder of young men, stuck to those guns.
Just like sometimes, even though it hurts, cheering your former teammates on and supporting them is better than feeling sorry for yourself.
The senior let his teammates down.
He can't undo that.
But at least he's trying.

Andrew Barlam is a Signal staff writer. He can be reached at abarlam@the-signal.com. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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