Montgomery rebuilds at Dunbar


Montgomery rebuilds at Dunbar

Dunbar coach George Montgomery, who made some history of his own while playing basketball, admits that his players don't have a clue about the school's tradition and the teams, players and coaches whose shoulders thay are standing on.

Butch Rittmeyer's 29-4 team in 1956, led by Mel Davis and Alphra Saunders, finished third in the state tournament. Bernie Mills was a two-time All-Stater. Ronnie Lester emerged as a star in the NBA. Coach Jim Foreman produced many outstanding players, including playground legend Billy Harris. And Mike Poole, a 5-foot-5 point guard, was an All-Chicago Area selection in 1971-72.

"Kids today don't know the traditions or the fundamentals of the game. And a lot of coaches haven't played the game," Montgomery said. "I felt it was time for me to be a head coach again, time for me to give back."

Montgomery, 49, a graduate of Corliss in 1981, played at Illinois and was a second-round choice of the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1985 NBA draft. But he never played in the NBA. He is the father of Washington Wizards center JaVale McGee.

He coached at North Lawndale, Southside Prep and Corliss. Three years ago, when he learned there was an opening at Dunbar, he decided it was time to begin his own program at a school that once boasted one of the strongest and most competitive teams in the city.

"The experience I had from playing and coaching made me feel that it was time for me to put my flavor and philosophy into the school system, helping kids," he said.

"Since 1999, I've been coaching off and on. I didn't know if I was burned out or just needed to be at a different place. Coaching is fun but you're dealing with all sensitive personalities.

"It is so much different from what it was 10 years ago. Kids aren't as dedicated or they don't care to work hard on their game, their jump shot or work in the pivot. Half of the team is pretty dedicated on working on their weaknesses."

His first team was 14-10. His second team was 7-16. This year's team finished 17-5, losing to Du Sable 57-55 in the Class 3A sectional final at St. Ignatius.

"Last year was very frustrating and disappointing," Montgomery recalled. "They were rebelling. They didn't want to listen to me. They didn't want to work hard. They didn't think I should blow my whistle in practice so much."

After the last game, Montgomery met with the team leaders, DaJuan Appleberry and William Davis, and laid down the ground rules for the 2011-12 season. "I told them: 'To play for me next year your attitude has to change and you have to work hard on your game.' In the summer, the kids came to all of our games on time. They were dedicated. I felt they were determined to do something positive this year," he said.

And so they did. According to Montgomery, Appleberry, a 6-foot-1 senior guard, "did a complete 360" in terms of his attitude and dedication and work ethic. He averaged 17 points, five assists and five rebounds per game. He scored 18 in Dunbar's 53-42 victory over Jones in the sectional semifinals and netted 26 in the Mighty Men's loss to Du Sable.

Appleberry and 6-foot-4 senior Darvell Harris (10 ppg) will graduate but Montgomery has some talented players returning for 2012-13, including 6-foot-5 junior James Simmons (12 ppg, 6 rpg, 4 assists), 6-foot-7 junior Eric Ross (10 ppg, 7 rpg) and 5-foot-8 junior point guard Destyne Butler (7 ppg, 6 assists).

"This is the same team as last year but they bought into my system," Montgomery said. "I had to change certain things. I thought these kids were like us when we played...on time, hats off. But they think having fun is throwing the ball up and letting them go five-on-five up and down the court and no teaching.

"As a coach, you are still going to school. You have to adjust. Now they run more but I can't get away from discipline or teaching. Some of them are good at running up and down so you have to let them play. We started winning and they were convinced we could win with what I was talking about."

Montgomery learned his system and philosophy while playing with future NBA star Darrell Walker in a highly competitive program at Corliss. And his education continued while playing with Quinn Richardson, Efrem Winters, Doug Altenberger and Bruce Douglas at Illinois.

"I believe that hard work will pay off. In the beginning, some kids were on board and others jumped on board because winning is contagious," the coach said. "I've played on every level and been successful and if you listen to me, I'll take you Downstate, I told them. They have been listening. Now they have drive and determination."

As Opening Day approaches, Cubs roster comes into focus


As Opening Day approaches, Cubs roster comes into focus

With less than a week until Opening Day, the Cubs' roster is all but set.

Joe Maddon told reporters in Arizona Friday the Cubs will roll with eight relievers to open the season, which doesn't come as any surprise. 

Left-handed pitcher Randy Rosario was optioned to Triple-A Iowa, leaving Eddie Butler and Shae Simmons as the two most likely guys to take the final bullpen spot.

Butler, 27, is out of minor-league options, which means if the Cubs do not keep him on their big-league roster, they risk losing him on waivers. Simmons still has two options remaining.

Butler also represents more starting pitching depth for the team beyond their five-man rotation and Mike Montgomery. Theo Epstein's front office likes to enter a season with 8-10 starting pitching options in case of injury, so it'd be hard to see the team getting rid of their No. 7 guy on that depth chart.

This spring, Butler has pitched 10 innings over five games with a 4.50 ERA and five strikeouts. He made 11 starts and two bullpen appearances with the 2017 Cubs, posting a 3.95 ERA and 1.43 WHIP.

Simmons, 27, signed with the Cubs as a free agent Feb. 16 and pitched nine games with the Seattle Mariners last year. He's appeared in four games for the Cubs this spring, pitching to a 2.45 ERA with five strikeouts in 3.2 innings.

In carrying eight relievers, that only leaves one position player spot available (backup catcher). Outfielder Peter Bourjos is expected to start the season in the minor leagues.

Veteran backstop Chris Gimenez will probably get the nod on the big-league roster over youngster Victor Caratini.

Gimenez comes with experience and a knowledge and relationship with Yu Darvish and we do have confirmation Darvish is making the Opening Day roster:

The Cubs really like Caratini and he's arguably their top position player prospect, but at age 24, he needs to play every day and see regular at-bats, which he wouldn't get backing up Willson Contreras in Chicago.

With that, here's the projected Cubs' Opening Day roster:


Willson Contreras
Chris Gimenez


Anthony Rizzo
Kris Bryant
Addison Russell
Javy Baez
Tommy La Stella
Ben Zobrist


Ian Happ
Kyle Schwarber
Albert Almora Jr.
Jason Heyward

Starting pitchers

Jon Lester
Kyle Hendricks
Yu Darvish
Jose Quintana
Tyler Chatwood


Brandon Morrow (closer)
Carl Edwards Jr.
Pedro Strop
Justin Wilson
Steve Cishek
Brian Duensing
Mike Montgomery
Eddie Butler

Plenty of possibilities loom ahead of Bears' draft pick

Plenty of possibilities loom ahead of Bears' draft pick

As the Bears begin to fill out their draft board in earnest, they’ll do so by evaluating the players they like and the players they think will be available when they pick eighth in April. And what players check both those boxes and go into their draft “clouds,” as Ryan Pace calls them, will depend largely on how many quarterbacks are taken ahead of the Bears’ pick. 

With about a month until the draft, it seems clear two teams will take a quarterback with a top-seven pick: the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets. The Browns own the Nos. 1 and 4 picks; the Jets traded up from No. 6 to No. 3, and teams rarely invest that kind of draft capital to not draft a quarterback. 

That leaves a few hinge points in how many quarterbacks are picked by the time the Bears are on the clock:

New York Giants (No. 2 overall)

The Giants still have an aging Eli Manning but could move to use the second pick to draft his long-term replacement. Or, alternatively, they could use this deep class of top-end quarterbacks as an avenue to trade down, add some picks and build out a young core that way. Either of these scenarios would be good news for the Bears, as we’ve seen Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, N.C. State defensive end Bradley Chubb and Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson connected to the Giants at No. 2 as well, if they were to stay there. The Buffalo Bills could be motivated to trade up to No. 2 to make sure they get the guy they want with quarterbacks almost assuredly going off the board at Nos. 1 and 3. 

Cleveland Browns (No. 4 overall)

If the Browns get their quarterback with the first pick — Sam Darnold? — they could be sitting in an ideal spot at No. 4. If the Giants draft a quarterback, Cleveland could play hardball and tell teams they’re fine keeping the fourth pick and drafting Barkley with it. That could create a bidding war between the Buffalo Bills (No. 12) and Denver Broncos (No. 5) to trade up and draft the last of the four clear-cut top quarterbacks in this class. In this scenario, Cleveland adds a bunch of picks to an already-sizable stash and accelerates their growth through the draft. 

If the Giants were to trade out of the No. 2 pick, let’s say to the Bills, it may lessen Cleveland’s desire to trade down from No. 4 unless a team in need of a quarterback like the Arizona Cardinals (No. 15) or Miami Dolphins (No. 11) starts lurking around. But as we saw last year with the Bears trading up one spot to draft Mitch Trubisky, teams don’t want to leave things to chance if they have conviction on the quarterback they want. So that brings us to the…

Denver Broncos (No. 5 overall)

The Broncos signed Case Keenum to a two-year deal and still have 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch on their roster, though he hasn’t shown much in only five games as a pro. Does Denver absolutely, positively have to draft a quarterback? No. They’re probably in the same boat as the Giants in that regard. But what if they really like Josh Allen and/or Baker Mayfield, both of whom their coaching staff worked with at the Senior Bowl, and one of them is still on the board when the Browns’ pick comes up at No. 4? Or what if Josh Rosen has been their guy all along? 

In that case, John Elway may make an aggressive move to guarantee he gets the quarterback he wants, and not risk losing that guy if a team were to cut the line by trading with the Browns. 

The other scenario is less positive for the Bears: Maybe the Broncos only have one or two quarterbacks out of this group they want, and they either can’t find a trade partner to move out of No. 5 or don’t want to. If three quarterbacks are drafted in the first seven picks, the Bears may not have the opportunity to draft one of Nelson, Chubb or Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds, for example, is a super-talented prospect — but we seem to be moving toward a consensus that Nelson, Fitzpatrick, Chubb and Barkley are the four best non-quarterback prospects in this draft. And in all likelihood, the Bears will only be able to draft one of them four quarterbacks are taken before they pick. 

The wild card here is Nelson, given his position (guard) is rarely seen as worthy of being a top-10 pick. But those who saw him up close in college believe he’s a future perennial Pro Bowler, possibly beginning as soon as his rookie year. The Bears’ fit is obvious, with Harry Hiestand coming to coach the offensive line from Notre Dame and the team — as of right now — still having a fairly clear need for another interior offensive lineman. Perhaps Nelson falls to the Bears even if there are only three quarterbacks off the board before they pick, but having four go off the board would make things a little less stressful at Halas Hall in late April. 

Indianapolis Colts (No. 6 overall) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 7 overall)

The Colts already traded down once, and likely did so with the confidence that Chubb would still be on the board at No. 6 to help their limp pass rush. Fitzpatrick seems to be a good fit with Tampa Bay, though a player of his caliber would be a good fit anywhere. Either of these teams still could be persuaded to trade down, especially if the Giants and/or Broncos pass on a quarterback.

Chicago Bears (No. 8 overall)

If four quarterbacks are off the board by the time the Bears pick, that’s ideal for Pace. If three are, he still could get someone from his No. 8 pick “cloud” and be content staying there. If only two are — and this doesn’t appear to be a likely scenario — that means the Bills haven’t found a trade partner and may want to leapfrog the Dolphins at No. 11 to get their guy. More likely, if the Bears are able to trade down from No. 8, it would be because a team like Arizona wants to make sure the quarterback they want isn’t snagged by an opportunistic team ahead of them. 

But Pace's draft history has seen him trade up far more frequently than trade down. If someone who's in his draft cloud is available when the Bears go on the clock, chances are he'll pick that guy and not trade down. 

Plenty can and will change between now and when the draft begins on April 26. But for right now, the landscape ahead of the Bears suggests only positive things setting up for their first-round pick.