Rob Montgomery uses tenacious defense in starting role

Junior forward Rob Montgomery pushes inside the box on Nov. 6 at McGuirk Arena.

In the first game of his Chippewa career, Rob Montgomery got the start for the Central Michigan men’s basketball team in the season opener.

Head coach Keno Davis praised his athletic ability to get to the ball and block shots in the preseason. It soon became evident as to why.

At the 11:34 mark in the first half against Concordia, Montgomery came out of nowhere in the lane to swat away an attempted layup. Minutes later he found another block and the crowd was starting to feed off his energy.

Then in the second half, things didn’t exactly go his way. Following another block early in the half, Montgomery was called for three goaltending charges. He wouldn’t get a block the remainder of the game.

Davis later said there might have been more goaltending calls in that game than his six year career with CMU led by the three from Montgomery. To him, that wasn’t a concern.

It’s exactly why they went out and got Montgomery.

“I like that stuff,” Davis said. “I want him to make aggressive mistakes and he did. We want him to continue to do that.”

He hasn’t stopped at all. Through seven games, Montgomery leads the Chippewas with 11 blocks. A tenacious side to not be denied when getting to the ball has always been a part of Montgomery’s game. He’s wanted to bring it back to the Division I level after his first try didn’t go as planned.

“I knew I could play at this level,” Montgomery said. “Ultimately it was Central Michigan that was the right fit.”

Junior Forward Rob Montgomery dunks against Concordia on Nov. 6 at McGuirk Arena.

The 6-foot-6 forward started his collegiate basketball career at St. Francis Brooklyn, a Division I program in the Northeast Conference. Montgomery averaged 5.2 points per game as a freshman and felt a need for change. 

He transferred to Indian Hills Community College, which is in Ottumwa, Iowa. Montgomery didn’t want junior college to be the level he ended his college basketball career at. He didn’t know if the chance would ever come again.

CMU assistant coach Kyle Gerdeman was. He went to multiple practices and games to watch Montgomery play and was the primary recruiter for him.

“He made me a priority,” Montgomery said. “He would always talk with me and showed he really wanted me. He was genuine and we built a great relationship.”

Gerdeman said it wasn’t hard to build a relationship with a great kid who clearly would do anything to play basketball at a higher level.

“He has a different style of play than other players we’ve had here in the post,” Gerdeman said. “Luke (Meyer) was really good at his skill set but Rob has an opposite skill set which gives us a different look. (Montgomery) is a better defender in pick and roll situations and is better on the block with post defense because he has a bigger body.

“I told him we needed him right away to play.”

Originally when considering CMU, Montgomery liked Davis’ style of offense because he felt it allows players to play their own game. Now, he realizes it’s more complex.

With players being more athletic and mentally locked in at this level compared to junior college according to Montgomery, he had to learn what works and what doesn’t with Davis’ system.

“I’ve been easing my way in so far,” Montgomery said. “People just play at a different pace. I’m just trying to stay locked in and get better each day.”

So far, Montgomery has started every game for the Chippewas. He wants to keep doing what he’s always been taught — play with a hard-nosed, aggressive style.

“I try to bring some tenacity to the game,” Montgomery said. “I think it fits pretty well with my story.”