Austin Montgomery was never the typical college basketball prospect. His faith and family have always outweighed any desire to play at the next level.
Even with very strict stipulations, Montgomery, a recent Lakeview Academy graduate, secured a spot on the University of Utah men’s basketball roster and a nearly full scholarship starting in 2015.
“God is first in my life, family is second,” said Montgomery, who recently agreed to play for the Utes.
Montgomery, who averaged 21 points and nine rebounds a game as a senior with the Lions, is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Before beginning his college career, he’ll spend the next two years of his life serving his LDS mission, which he started this week with a six-week stay at the Mission Training Center in Provo, Utah.
There, he’ll brush up on his Spanish and prepare for his activities performed during his mission in Texas. He’ll spend his days sun up to sun down sharing his faith and doing service work projects for the community he lives in. He could end up in the big city, possibly San Antonio or Austin, or in a rural area as part of the church’s regional territory that goes all the way down to the U.S.-Mexico border.
Before leaving to fulfill his LDS responsibilities, the honor student and basketball star spent last Tuesday with his mother, Alison, touring the Utah campus in Salt Lake City to see the school’s engineering department and see where the basketball program plays at the Jon M. Huntsman Arena.
“We’re very proud of Austin,” said his mother. “He’s been a very good example for his (four) younger brothers and sisters.
“He’s always worked hard and strived for perfection.”
Montgomery finished high school with a 4.0 GPA, earned the Presidential Scholarship to Utah and acceptance to the Honors University. Currently, he plans on majoring in the engineering field or pursuing a career in medicine.
After college, the 6-foot-8 center would love to stay involved in the game, whether it be playing overseas for a while before beginning his professional career, or coaching his kids at the recreational level.
However, with two years away from the game, Montgomery can’t promise he’ll enter Utah in basketball shape. While in Texas, he’ll have 30 minutes of exercise at daybreak. Montgomery will also use a bicycle as his primary form of transportation. He’ll log about 8-20 miles per day, his mother said.
However, basketball will be reserved to when he can get to an open court and free time away from church duties.
“They (Utah) are very familiar with recruiting athletes that go on missions,” Montgomery said. “Other schools that recruited me were a little more apprehensive.”
He says that spending two years in the mission field will help him become more mature and independent before starting his college career about 1,900 miles away from his Gwinnett County home. One of the benefits to playing at Utah, Montgomery says, is that the athletic department is very understanding of students that choose the LDS Mission field.
Montgomery pointed out one of Utah’s current players, Jeremy Olsen, is from nearby Collins Hill High in Lawrenceville and is a 22-year old rising junior after serving his two-year mission for the Church.
“Utah is well known for its academic programs and having a basketball program that plays at a high level,” his mother added.
Although not recruited by Utah for basketball, he contacted the school via email and followed it up with highlight videos and a package of career honors and accolades. When they promised he could come on in 2015 as a preferred walk-on, and he felt comfortable the school matched his academic interests, he made it official in the spring.
Montgomery’s mother is originally from Idaho. When Austin moves to Utah, he’ll be attending school with some of his cousins, as well as others that attend nearby Brigham Young University.