Walk-on reserve guard succeeds with effort, intensity
Three days after scoring a career-high five points against Iowa, the 6-foot-3 walk-on guard Kevin Montminy checked into the game with 11:25 left in the first half against Michigan.
What is the player’s reward after a great game and a tough three days of practice? He gets to guard Trey Burke, Naismith and Wooden National Player of the Year Award winner and All-American.
Montminy, a sophomore, is a reserve guard on the Penn State men’s basketball team. Montminy, with a thin, but muscular body, joined the team in 2011 as a walk-on after a stellar career at Penns Valley High School, where he is the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,498 points. Montminy was named second team all-Pennsylvania for Class AA after his senior year and third-team all-state as a junior after he led the Rams to their first district title in school history.
Montminy developed a reputation of being a hard-worker at Penns Valley. In addition to his success on the basketball court, Montminy also was a four-year letterman in football and a three-year letterman in baseball. Off the court, Montminy earned a 4.0 grade-point-average and valedictorian honors. He is currently enrolled in the Smeal College of Business and the Schreyer Honors College.
“He’s still a role model for our players because of what he does in a Penn State uniform. He still plays and works really hard,” said Penns Valley Head Coach Terry Glunt. “He’s a once-in-a-lifetime kid that I was proud to coach for four years.”
Effort and intensity was on full display in Montminy’s individual workout, led by assistant coach Keith Urgo and Director of Player Operations Ross Condon, on Thursday in the Bryce Jordan Center practice gym.
Redshirt sophomore teammate D.J. Newbill, the team’s leading scorer, joined Montminy. Sophomore guard John Johnson, a transfer from Pitt, was the only other player in the gym.
The duo, both in sleeveless white shirts and white team shorts, started with a drill where they would start at half court and sprint to the three-point line, catch a pass from Urgo or Condon and fire up a shot. The first one to ten makes would win the drill, the loser would have to run.
The first time through the drill, Montminy matched Newbill shot-for-shot through eight makes, before Newbill pulled away hitting the last two.
Shortly after, Montminy was running, with Newbill clapping for him the whole way. The next four times through the drill were also close, with Newbill coming out a 3-2 winner.
In one of the toughest drills, one of the players dribbled up the floor as the other sprinted behind and dove to knock the ball away.
Scraped elbows and knees were the price paid for a high-intensity drill that embraces hustle and toughness. Montminy and Newbill, a Philadelphia native, both took their bruises without any thought of quitting the drill.
“Kevin really pushes us in practice every day. He brings that toughness and energy that we need,” said Newbill. “The team really feeds off of each other when we see guys diving and giving that extra effort. Kevin is one of those guys that is never afraid to make those plays.”
Exhausted after practice, Montminy headed right to his place at Nittany Apartments to finish his school work. On the walls of his room hung the 2012-13 Penn State men’s basketball poster and a Michael Jordan poster. On his desk were his medal from the district championship game and pictures of his family.
Despite all of his high school success, Montminy did not receive much interest from division I schools for basketball. Montminy got more interest for football, including from local division II and III teams as well as a few Ivy League schools.
Montminy’s basketball recruitment picked up after his junior season, including looks from small division I schools, but a broken foot during AAU basketball forced him to miss most of the entire summer recruiting season.
The opportunity to walk-on at Penn State came after attending a June recruiting camp, which was also attended by former head coach Ed DeChellis, now at Navy, and assistant coach Kurt Kanaskie, now at Virginia Tech.
During Montminy’s senior year, Kanaskie visited to watch Penns Valley’s game at Tyrone. Shortly after that game, Montminy met with DeChellis and Kanaskie, when they offered him a walk-on spot.
“I went in and visited (DeChellis and Kanaskie). I thought it would be just to talk about my options,” said Montminy. “They offered that day. They really took me by surprise, but I was really happy. I took the rest of my recruiting visits, but ended up in a great place at Penn State.”
Montminy grew up in Centre Hall, Pa., about 20 minutes from the Penn State campus. He attended Penn State football and basketball games with his family and became a fan of Penn State athletics.
The departure of coach DeChellis to Navy left Montminy uncertain about his status with the program. However, Kanaskie met with then-incoming head coach Pat Chambers and put in a strong word for Montminy.
“Coach Chambers invited my family and I in to meet with him,” said Montminy. “He extended the same invitation that Coach DeChellis had. I’ve really enjoyed playing for Coach Chambers since then.”
It could be tough for some players to adjust to a reserve role after being their prep team’s top scorer, but Montminy is determined to do whatever he needs to in order to help the team get better. His main role in practice is with the scout team, which focuses on preparing the starters for the next opponent.
“Kevin brings a great attitude to our practices and program every single day,” said Assistant Coach Keith Urgo. “He’s one of our hardest working guys on and off the court. He brings hustle and enthusiasm to everything that we do in practice.”
One of the things that Montminy appreciates about the Penn State program is that he is given the same opportunities to earn playing time as the scholarship players. In practice, Montminy said Chambers takes a very business-like approach and expects every player to perform their role with effort and intensity.
Montminy pointed to senior guard Nick Colella, who earned a scholarship for this past season after the effort that he showed in practice and games.
Tough practices and high-intensity personality might not make be appreciated by some players, but Montminy really enjoys playing for Chambers.
“He’s very much a player’s coach and we all love playing for him,” said Montminy. “He’s very passionate and brings that energy and intensity. He’s very true to his word and will always tell you the truth. We really respect that as players.”
Montminy took advantage of Chambers’ system, earning playing time in 23 games, including 15 of 18 Big Ten contests and the team’s first round matchup in the Big Ten Tournament against Michigan, including chances to play against players like Michigan’s Burke.
With all-Big Ten guard Tim Frazier returning and five new players in the fold, the team looks to take a big step forward next year and want that to end with an NCAA Tournament berth.
“I think our enthusiasm for next year is through the roof right now. We already have our goals set for next year,” said Montminy. “We’re just really putting our nose to the grindstone. We know through our hard work and Coach Chambers, we’re going to get better and play a lot better next year.”