Starting over is hard to do, as Justice Montgomery would tell you.
A transfer athlete from American University, a Division I school, Montgomery has had to adjust to Cedarville this semester as a junior. According to himself, his coaches and his teammates, Montgomery brings not only talent to the men’s basketball team, but an unselfish spirit and a servant’s heart.
Montgomery has started over before, but that doesn’t make it any easier for him, he said. When he switched schools in eighth grade, he had to leave the friends that he’d made in elementary school.
“When I had to go to Orlando Christian Prep, it was one of the worst things for me, because I had to start over again,” he said. “But that’s always been the biggest thing, just trying to adjust to a new environment. It’s always going to be a struggle.”
He’s adjusting well, though, said men’s basketball head coach Pat Estepp. Montgomery lives in a townhouse with some of his teammates.
“The guys love being around him, and he’s a great fit,” Estepp said. “Being a transfer’s difficult. You’re coming in midway through, and he had good relationships at American, and I know that’s a little bit of a struggle – being away from those guys – because he doesn’t know our guys quite as well. But as far as fitting in, you couldn’t ask for a better fit, and he’s tremendous.”
Division I to Division II
Montgomery spent the first two years of his college career at American University, a private university located on the outskirts of the nation’s capital. He was on the basketball team, but he did not get much playing time, averaging seven minutes a game his freshman year. His sophomore year he played a total of 15 minutes for the entire season. Montgomery said he felt his time at American was coming to an end.
“I just felt that I wanted to go to a Christian school for the remainder of my college years,” he said, “and I felt, also, that basketball there wasn’t the best because I didn’t really like the coaches.”
The transfer process began shortly after the season ended. Estepp was looking to fill holes, as he had lost four seniors from the team. He and his assistant coaches kept their eye on a list of Division I transfers.
“Our first line of recruiting with transfers is we look at social media accounts, and usually you can rule a kid out right away based on what they’re putting on there,” Estepp said. “And then sometimes you can get a kid where you think, just based on things he’s saying, ‘He might be a great fit here.’”
Assistant coach Zach Brown came across a 5-foot-11-inch point guard named Justice Montgomery.
Estepp said, “(Brown) started looking on (Montgomery’s) Twitter account, and he’s tweeting lyrics from worship songs and we’re like, ‘Okay, this kid might be a fit.’”
Estepp called two coaches who gave him high recommendations of Montgomery, so in May of this year, the point guard visited Cedarville. It was different for Montgomery, having lived in Orlando and attending school in Washington, DC. But he said he enjoyed the visit.
“I loved the campus, and a few of the teammates were here,” Montgomery said. “It was Easton (Bazzoli), J.C. (Faubion) and Johnny (Foote), and I really loved hangingout with them. So they were cool. And the coaches I got along with when I was talking to them and hanging out with them.”
Montgomery, a junior business major, said he doesn’t regret the two years he spent at American.
I felt the first two years of college I was supposed to be at American. I have no doubt about that. It made me kind of hear from God and let me know that ministry is something that I want to do.
Montgomery said one of the reasons he went to a secular school in the first place was the stigma of Christian schools being a bubble.
“I felt God calling me out to impact people who were not in that bubble, because I felt like I didn’t want to graduate college and then experience the world and everything be shocking when I’m 21 and haven’t experienced anything,” Montgomery said.
A team player
Estepp praised Montgomery’s talents, especially his speed and quickness. “He might be the quickest guy with the ball in his hands in 15 years of being here that I’ve coached,” Estepp said. “He can start and stop probably quicker than any guy that I’ve been privileged to coach.”
Estepp also said Montgomery is a team player.
He’s a pass-first point guard. He’s one who will set his teammates up. He’d much prefer to do that than (to) shoot. And I think that helps you get into an offensive flow a little easier than having a point guard who wants to score all the time.
Montgomery echoed this sentiment, comparing his style of play to that of NBA point guard Rajon Rondo.
“I enjoy getting other people involved,” Montgomery said. “For me, it just makes sense, especially being a point guard because if I’m playing well and my teammates aren’t, then most likely we’re going to lose.”
Estepp added that Montgomery is a good defender.
“He can get out and put pressure on the ball at 90 feet,” Estepp said. “And he can get into the lane, but he can also get up and finish at the rim in traffic because he’s pretty athletic.”
Once he graduates, Montgomery said he wants to go into ministry. He has been involved in a few ministries already.
“I interned the past two summers at my church as a worship leader. And I also parttime interned with an organization called World Hope that’s founded at my church,” he said.
And during his time at American, Montgomery was a part of Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Although there’s many paths of ministry he can take, Montgomery said he doesn’t know which one he’ll choose.
“I don’t know if I want to be a worship pastor. I don’t know if I’d want to do something with a non-profit like World Hope that’s doing something for God,” he said. “This summer I might intern with Fellowship of Christian Athletes. So I’m really open to different types of ministry. I just know I want to do something.”
Jonathan Gallardo is a senior journalism major and sports editor for Cedars. He loves writing fiction, listening to music, and he wishes he could be LeBron James.