For Wyjuana and Frederick Montgomery, basketball is a big part of their lives in their family. It's almost as if its part of a daily routine of eating, sleeping and going to work. More importantly, the Montgomerys carry the principles and ethics found in basketball - determination, hard work, discipline - into the lives of young women and the community through an annual event known as Queens of the Hardwood.
As it celebrates its third year, the basketball event showcases some of the most talented and successful senior high school girls in Washington state.
"It's the last time that some of the most talented girls get to play against each other in an all-star game before heading off to college," said Frederick Montgomery.
Queens of the Hardwood first started with a simple question asked by the Montgomery's daughter.
"Dad you do all this stuff for boys basketball, why not for girls? Why isn't there an all-star games for girls in Seattle?" she asked.
Without an immediate answer to her question, Frederick and Wyjuana began to build on the idea of creating the first all-star girls basketball game in Seattle.
A PASSION FOR COACHING
Frederick graduated from Rainer Beach High School and played on the 1988 state championship basketball team with Doug Christie, current NBA guard for the Los Angeles Clippers. After attending Southern University for several years, Frederick returned to Seattle and found his love of the game to be at a different level. No longer was his drive found on the court as a player, for he found a new passion off the court in coaching and mentoring young people.
In addition to coaching in the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), Montgomery was also an assistant coach for Garfield High School's boys and girls basketball team. He coached former University of Washington guard Will Conroy, and current NBA Portland Trailblazer, Brandon Roy. However, Montgomery has noticed a significant difference when coaching boys and girls.
"I learned more coaching with girls than boys because they are more detailed in terms of the pace of the game," said Montgomery. "It has elevated my coaching level."
Much of his experience with coaching girls in basketball has driven Montgomery and his wife to develop an event that acknowledges the hard work and talent that these young women athletes encompass.
"We want to empower these young women athletes and show that they are not second class citizens when it comes to competing in sports," said Frederick.
PLAYING FOR A CAUSE
What differentiates this all-star game from other tournaments or games around Seattle are the charitable contributions being made to a local organization. Proceeds from this year's ticket sales, raffles, and a silent auction will be donated to the Teen Parent Home. As part of the Goodwill Development Association, the Teen Parent Home provides foster care and transitional housing for teen parents.
Established in 1988, the program has served more than 122 families and provides teen parents with classes on parenting, emphasizing the importance of education. The home also offers mental health services as well.
"A lot of our players have seen teen pregnancies hit close to home and see the impact it has had on those individuals," Wyjuana said. "We felt that this was a great organization to partner with this year."
Queens of the Hardwood also represents the diverse cultural and social backgrounds that each of these players come from. The all-star event celebrates the many obstacles and success that these players have achieved during their adolescent and teenage years. One player that exemplifies this is Alex Moore-Porter, forward from Lakeside High School.
Alex tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), one of the four major ligaments of the knee during the 2005 - 2006 season. With hours of rehabilitation and physical therapy, Alex had to relearn how to walk. She ultimately regained full strength in her knee during the 2006 - 2007 season. Moore-Porter finished the season strong by averaging 22 points, 16 rebounds, four assists, and five steals per game. She was named the 2007 Metro Leading Scorer.
"I love both the competitive and team aspects of basketball," said Alex. "I hate to lose."
As for the Montgomerys, they hope that in addition to the annual event they can also host a summer basketball tournament for middle school girls. Additionally, they're examining the possibility of flying a team from California in for the Seattle Queens of the Hardwood event. Although Frederick has tried to take some time off from coaching to spend more of it with his two daughters and son, basketball for him is like a bad itch that just never goes away.
"I really tried to sit out, but the passion is just there," said Frederick.
An intervention specialist at Mercer Middle School, Frederick also coaches the school's girls basketball team.
"When I'm coaching and kids tell me thank you, it's like the MasterCard commercial. It's priceless. When you share knowledge with these children and they are able to remember and learn from it, it really is priceless," said Montgomery.
The Queens of the Hardwood event will be held in the gymnasium at Rainer Beach High School starting at 2 p.m. on March 31. The all-star game will feature 19 girls from across Washington state and will be coached by Kate Ridnour, wife of Sonic guard Luke Ridnour, and Marvena Kemp, wife of former Sonics Shawn Kemp. In addition, the silent auction and raffle will feature sports memorabilia such as a signed Seahawks jersey from Shawn Alexander and signed basketball shoes from Sonics forward Chris Wilcox.
Tickets are $8 for ages 18 and up, $5 for ages 5-17, and free for children under the age of 5.
Alice Liang may be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.[[In-content Ad]]