Montgomery appears to be developing as starter Sue Bird’s backup, but coach Jenny Boucek said it’s too early to predict season rotations and roles.
In its rebuild, the Storm felt it was important to sign veteran players with something to prove. Enter point guard Renee Montgomery.
For five seasons, Montgomery was in what often felt like basketball purgatory. A former star at the University of Connecticut, the bulk of Montgomery’s professional career was an hour from the school’s Storrs campus. Nestled in a casino in Uncasville, the Connecticut Sun was supposed to be an extension of her college success.
But after two coaches, one All-Star appearance, a Sixth Woman of the Year award and roles that saw her go from being a starter to deep reserve, fans began to speak out. Montgomery, according to reports and message boards, wasn’t being utilized properly.
Storm @ Phoenix (exhibition), 12:30 p.m.
“They watched me grow up, so I think they kind of took it personal,” Montgomery said of Sun fans’ reactions to roster decisions when Anne Donovan replaced Mike Thibault as coach in 2013.
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Montgomery’s minutes dropped from an average of 27.2 in Donovan’s first season to 16.2 last year.
“It really got so bad that some of the staff (Sun) wanted me to make a statement, like ‘It’s OK,’ ” said Montgomery, who was a starter for two of her three seasons under Thibault. “The fans on social media were very outspoken during the season.”
Sending Montgomery across the country seemed to calm tempers. The Storm traded popular center Camille Little and 2012 first-round draft pick Shekinna Stricklen to the Sun for Montgomery and a 2015 pick that was used to draft forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis third overall.
“I think both groups won in the deal,” said Montgomery, who’s entering her seventh season. “It’s good for me to get a fresh start. I had been there five years, and I’m not an older player. I still have a lot of basketball in me. To be somewhere and not be used would have not been justice to me, so I’m happy.”
Storm coach Jenny Boucek was happy, too. She marveled at Montgomery’s leadership and quickness in learning the new system to open training camp.
In Tuesday’s preseason win against Phoenix, Montgomery was substituted for guard Sue Bird and nailed two three-pointers in the first quarter to help build a 15-8 lead.
In the second quarter, Montgomery replaced Bird again and scored on a layup and set up Alysha Clark for a three-pointer to help the Storm take a 45-31 lead into the break. Montgomery finished with 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting with four assists.
Seattle plays at Phoenix in another preseason game Thursday.
Montgomery appears to be developing as Bird’s backup, but Boucek said it’s too early to predict season rotations and roles. The Storm must submit a minimum 11-player roster to the WNBA by June 4.
Fourteen players are in training camp, including five guards who can distribute and shoot.
“We’re really looking for how people are progressing because we’re assessing potential,” Boucek said of the long-term plans with the rebuild. “That’s the battle right now. We’re not necessarily looking at player head-to-head. We’re looking at what’s going to make the best team.”