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Northwestern Basketball Offseason Player Capsules: James Montgomery III

The college basketball offseason is a dark place. From April to November, teams across the country revert into a quasi-hoops hibernation, shielded from the media spotlight and mostly unavailable to the public eye in the same way as, say, football players are during spring practice. Things ramp up again over the summer, and a recent NCAA rule pushing the start of official practice back two weeks ensures teams will begin formal preseason preparations earlier than ever this season.

Those extra two weeks are a welcome development, but the start of the college basketball season remains a distant entity, microscopically positioned in the most forward-looking reaches of our winter sports imaginations. We’re here to help you bridge the gap with some refresher-type player capsules. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be rolling out quick little offseason snapshots of each player, how they performed last season and what you can reasonably expect as the Wildcats prepare for new coach Chris Collins’ first season. So if you’re ever missing basketball, if you find yourself pining for what’s to come on the hardwood this winter, you have brief individual player breakdowns to hold you over.

There is a lot of time to fill during a college hoops offseason, and convenient exercises like these can help expedite the long respite.

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James Montgomery III

Height/Weight: 6' 4'', 190 pounds
Class: Senior

Stats to Know (from 2012-13 unless indicated otherwise)

PPG: 0.7
MPG: 4.1
FG%: 0.300
3PT%: 0.182

Past history 

There are normal walk-ons, and then there is Reggie Hearn. Montgomery III is closer to the former, and nothing about his past two years with the Wildcats suggests he can do anything close to becoming the latter, but he is – as former coach Bill Carmody frequently noted after practices last season – a steadily improving player with a fundamentally sound skill set and a great work ethic.

His minutes correspondingly jumped last season, to the point where Montgomery logged double digits in three consecutive Big Ten games. No, those games (Illinois (2/17), Wisconsin (2/20), at Purdue (2/24) weren’t competitive down to the wire, and Montgomery III finished with just two field goals in that stretch, but so what? He cracked the double-digit minute barrier just once in 2011-12 and never played more than three in conference play. Injuries and massive attrition aside, improvement was undeniable.

Where he fits

All that positive talk about playing time increases may not continue as an observable trend in 2013, because the truth is, a big reason why Montgomery III got so many minutes in the first place was because of the raft of catastrophic injuries suffered throughout last season. JerShon Cobb and Drew Crawford are back this year, and both should log considerable backcourt/perimeter minutes. Montgomery’s playing time will suffer correspondingly.

That isn’t to say he can’t be a productive patchwork guy off the bench – the Wildcats will need energy, turnover-averse ball security and quality minutes when Crawford and Cobb find themselves in foul trouble or need a short break. Montgomery III can provide that, even if he won’t leave an indelible individual thumbprint on the game itself. 

What to expect

Last season’s injury atrocity gave Montgomery III the playing time he needed to realize his lauded practice work ethic against real opponents, and the results were positive. His responsibilities shouldn’t change in any significant way this season, and if everyone stays healthy, Montgomery III’s minutes might stay about where they were last season, or even decline somewhat.

The more guard-oriented Northwestern’s offense becomes under new coach Chris Collins, the more opportunities Montgomery III will have to come in, offer strong bursts of energy in limited minutes and prove he deserves more and lengthier opportunities on the court. There weren’t a lot of unilaterally improving player developmental upswings last season. Montgomery III was definitely one of them.