In her second year in the WNBA, Connecticut Sun guard Renee Montgomery showed head coach Mike Thibault what every coach loves to see from a second-year player – improvement. Renee increased her averages in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals. Her hard work landed her an invitation to the U.S. Women’s National Basketball Training Camp, where she is currently competing for a spot on the final World Championship roster.
As great a passer as Renee is on the court, she’s even better dishing out assists off of it. She serves as the National Spokesperson for the Pajama Program, which provides children living in difficult circumstances with a nurturing environment, warm set of pajamas and bedtime story. Additionally, she runs the Renee Montgomery Basketball Camp, helping young players fine-tune their games and realize their hoop dreams.
We caught up with Renee to ask her about returning to Connecticut, the importance of giving back, Nike sponsorship and having the opportunity to represent her country on an international stage. Check out what this rising star had to say.
Brandon Richard: You spent a season in Minnesota before you were traded to Connecticut in January. How did it feel to leave your first WNBA home, but at the same time, return to a place where you had four great seasons at the college level?
Renee Montgomery: It was a bittersweet moment. I was sad to leave my teammates, friends and staff at Minnesota, but I was also happy to return back to Connecticut where I went to college.
For all of your accomplishments on the court, your contributions off the court landed you the 2009 Charleston Gazette Sportsperson of the Year award. One of those off-court contributions is your work with the Pajama Program. How important is it for you to be active in giving back to your community?
I feel that I am blessed enough to be in the public eye and have an impact on people. I wanted to make sure that it’s known that I give back, and to encourage others to do the same. I love, love, love babies and children, but once kids get too big, they don’t want me to hold them and kiss them. The Pajama Program was a way for me to give back and have a impact on children’s lives.
Who or what first influenced you to pick up a basketball, and what continues to motivate you today?
When I was younger, I wanted to do everything my older sisters did, as I’m sure most younger siblings would say. When I saw them playing basketball, I wanted to play. Then when they drifted off to cheerleading and being majorettes, I had to let them go and just stick to basketball and soccer.
You’ve worn Nike sneakers since your days in college. This year, we’ve seen you wearing the Air Max Hyperfly. What are some of your favorite pairs you’ve had a chance to wear through the years?
I love Nike gear, and this isn’t a “sponsored statement” [laughs]. When I graduated college, I was so excited when I was offered a deal from them because it’s what I am used to wearing. I also think they’re the most fashionable. The Hyperdunks may be one of my favorite shoes, but right now I’m training in the Hyperfuse, and they’re giving the Hyperdunks some competition.
Being part of the Nike family, what do you think sets them apart from other footwear brands?
I think the thing that sets Nike apart from the other footwear brands is how they do a great job of getting the athlete’s feedback about every aspect of the shoe. Then when they come out with a newer version, they have fixed any problems that may have been part of the last shoe. They are also trying to figure out ways to give you any minor advantages, and when you are playing at a professional level, you are looking for any little thing you can do to get you ahead of your competition.
You were invited to be a part of the 2010 USA Women’s National Basketball Team pool. What does it mean to you to have a chance to represent your country on the international stage?
It’s really hard to describe the feeling, because everyone grows up wanting to win a gold medal. Once you’ve made it to the WNBA, you look around at all the great players and then feel honored that you were even chosen to try out for the USA team pool. I’m excited for the experience, but I also would love to make the team and represent the USA at the World Championships.