Montgomery ready to open up first season


Jerry Burnes | Northern Star Mark Montgomery speaks at NIU media day Tuesday at the NIU Convocation Center. Montgomery enters his first year as NIU men’s basketball coach after serving under Tom Izzo at Michigan State.

By Brian Thomas

Mark Montgomery dreamt about his first media day as a head coach for 15 years.

At the Convocation Center Tuesday, his dream became a reality when he put on the Huskies’ red and black tie.

“After being an assistant for 15 years, you dream about this day, your first media day,” Montgomery said. “I picked this tie out once [NIU Athletic Director] Jeff Compher and [President John] Peters offered me the job… I said this would be a great tie, not just for the sidelines, but for media day. These are my new colors. I’ve been wearing that green and white for so long, and now I’m wearing red. This looks kind of nice, [and] it kind of brightens up my mood.”

As this is Montgomery’s first season as NIU’s head coach, it is also many players’ first season.

The Huskies are made up of eight freshmen, making them a young and inexperienced team.

But that isn’t stopping these underclassmen from aiming high.

“I think we will have a big impact this season, as there are eight of us,” said freshman point guard Zach Miller. “I think a lot of them have a chance to get in there early and see what we can do. I think we’re all ready to go. I mean, we’ve been here since June, and we learned the system, lifted, conditioned and everything, so we’re all ready to go.”

NIU’s freshmen will look to its two seniors, Tim Toler and Tyler Storm, and even junior Antone Christian for leadership.

“They have done a lot,” Miller said. “Showing us how to do things, day in and day out. They get us through the drills. [There are] days where we’re tired; we’re freshmen. We’re not used to this stuff, going all day, and there in the locker room trying to get you going before practice, and that definitely helps when there in there talking.”

The players also have had to adapt to Montgomery’s new style of play, and have been learning and picking it up quickly.

“They are adjusting to it well,” Christian said. “They are picking up on it. Like I said, they soak everything in. They are getting very acclimated to the system, as far as working hard, just doing everything that they had done before.”

Montgomery has preaches defense and wants his guys to be “big, quick and nasty.”

“Being unselfish, helping your teammate, being in the gap, pressuring the ball, and at the end of the possession, making sure we rebound that basketball,” Montgomery said. “I learned under the tree of coach [Tom] Izzo. Rebounding and defense has been a staple, and it helped us win a lot of games when we weren’t as good offensively [at Michigan State]. Guys have to buy in defensively.”