Montgomery plans to build NIU his way


Northern Star File Photo 11/11/11

By Brian Belford

Mark Montgomery, NIU men’s basketball coach, said he is slowly building up the program the way he wants to.

Montgomery, following in the footsteps of Joe Novak, former NIU football coach, said he wants to build the basketball program with a certain type of player. Montgomery said he’s looking for players of high character who care about being good student athletes, good teammates and reaching their full potential.

“I want to hold our guys accountable for reaching their full potential,” Montgomery said. “If it’s academically, if it’s athletically, or if it’s socially. I want high character guys. I want guys that are going to battle to the end and be resilient, and I do want guys committed to being a good student athlete. Wanting to graduate is very important and wanting to work hard and be a good teammate is right below it.”

The momentum of Montgomery’s player policy has already begun to swing.

It will be senior night for the Huskies Wednesday against Toledo, but only DeMarcus Grady and Tyler Storm will be honored as seniors.

Bryan Hall, Lee Fisher and Nate Rucker all chose to forgo their senior seasons at NIU, and Tim Toler, who played until late January, was dismissed for breaking team rules.

“Coming in, I gave everyone an opportunity,” Montgomery said. “I told them the way we were going to do it. I told them you have to be committed to the program, committed to your teammates and anything less than that, and you probably shouldn’t be within the program. So some guys chose to not come back, and some guys it just didn’t work out for.”

NIU forward Tyler Storm said it was possible that some players felt like they wouldn’t fit into Montgomery’s system, but that it was more likely they just didn’t feel like playing any more.

“It’s possible they might have thought like that,” Storm said. “I think Hall just didn’t feel like playing much anymore. And Lee, he plays at Chicago State now; I think he just wanted to go somewhere where he could do something a little different.”

For Rucker and Toler, there were team issues that led to their departures.

“I haven’t talked to Tim since he’s left, so I don’t have much to say about that,” Storm said. “But Rucker, I think there was some team issues we had going on with him.”

Besides the players from last year who neglected to return, one example of a player who just didn’t fit the profile was highly touted recruit Dre Henley, who was only at NIU for one week during the Fall semester before leaving.

“You’re not always as hands on as you’d like to be in the summer because of the rules, but Dre knew the teams policies,” Montgomery said. “That doesn’t mean if you make one mistake you’re off the team; you have to have to make multiple mistakes. Unfortunately, it just didn’t work out for Dre Henley. At the same time, kids can change; they don’t know how good they have it until they leave.”

The players who chose to leave by their own volition, Henley and DeAndre Barnette, opened the door for the signing of nine freshman.

For next year’s class, Montgomery said he’s already found the type of players he wants to be wearing NIU’s colors.

“The first recruit we got this spring was Mike Davis; a high character kid,” Montgomery said. “Then Sam Mader; he’s a rock solid kid; he will fill the void at the center position. Darryl Bowie, another good student and high character kid; he can play multiple positions. We also got Daveon Balls and we have one scholarship left.”