Illini Legends, Lists & Lore: George Montgomery

Illini Legends, Lists & Lore: George Montgomery

Thirty-one years ago Sunday, George Montgomery signed a national letter of intent to play basketball at the University of Illinois. A graduate of Corliss High School in Chicago, the two-time team MVP averaged 15 points and nine rebounds on a squad that featured future NBA star Darrell Walker. "Big George" teamed up with Derek Harper, Anthony Welch, Doug Altenberger, Efrem Winters, Bruce Douglas and Ken Norman as an Illini. As a junior in 1983-84, Montgomery earned second-team All-Big Ten honors, finishing second in the conference with 8.1 rebounds per game. Careerwise, he averaged 7.2 points and 5.6 rebounds, starting 61 of 114 games. Illinois had a winning percentage of .716 overall and .666 in the Big Ten during Montgomery's four seasons from 1981-82 through '84-85. He was a second-round choice of the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1985 NBA draft, but he never played in the league. Montgomery was married to two-time NCAA basketball champion Pam McGee. Their son, JaVale McGee, is now a starter for the Denver Nuggets, averaging 12 points, nine rebounds and two blocked shots per game. Montgomery has been a coach in Chicago high school basketball since 1999, serving at North Lawndale, Southside Prep and Corliss. For the last three seasons he's been the head coach at Dunbar High. This year's team was 17-5, losing to DuSable in the Class 3A sectional final.

Illini Birthdays

Sunday: Andy Small, baseball (43)

Monday: Bruce Douglas, basketball (48)

Tuesday: Phil & Paul Judson, basketball (78)

Wednesday: Virginia "Veegee" Elsen, track & field/cross-country (53)

Thursday: Dave Seifert, baseball (41)

Friday: Erin Frakes, track & field (30)

Saturday: Chester Frazier, basketball (26)

By Mike Pearson, author of Illini Legends, Lists & Lore and assistant athletic director at Miami (Ohio)

Get Illini birthdays, trivia and historical tidbits daily on Twitter @IlliniLegends

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geriatricillini wrote on April 08, 2012 at 8:04 am

I fondly remember Big George and Efrem controlling the middle back in the early 80s...both around 6-9 and 240 and intimidating as hell underneath the bucket...When they played Kentucky at the Assembly Hall on Christmas Eve in the 83-84 season and down in Lexington in the 1984 Elite Eight in March, it wasn't for the faint of heart in there with Sam Bowie and Mel Turpin...both 7 footers...and Kenny "Sky" Walker flying around as was big time wrestling on the block....we did lose both games, questionably at best down there, but it was quite a sight to see. Those guys blocked out the sun. Unfortunately, Turpin killed himself in July of 2010...very Happy Birthday, Big George, from an old fan of yours...

tlappin wrote on April 08, 2012 at 9:04 pm

 I recall the Judson twins when they starred for Hebron. Hebron was Illinois' version of "Hoosiers". Hebron is a very small town in northern Illinois. The school had about 15 boys in high school and had four of them go on to major college teams.They won the State Championship when it was single class in about 1955.

As I recall Hebron played Champaign High in the opening tournament game, which I saw at Huff. Champaign had Loren Leach, the McKinney brothers, and Clarence Burke. Hebron sqeeked out a win and went on to win the tournament.

The Judsons plus Bill Ridley, played on one of Harry Combes fast break, run and gun teams. It was a good time to be an Illini fan.

This was before even Loren Tate was writing for the News-Gazette, in the days of TO White.

willieJ wrote on April 09, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Oops, tiny error.  George was married to fellow Illini Barnetta Woodson Montgomery and they had a daughter, Tiffany, who attends Ohio State.  He was not married to Pam McGee, but they do have a son, JaVale.

MoeGreen63 wrote on April 09, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Thanks for the blast from the past and mentioning one of my favorite all time Illini players... Big George Montgomery! How great it was to watch that fundamentally sound team of warriors that beat huge odds to take a share of the Big Ten and to get just a little bit homered out of a Final Four that season.

Thanks to Big George for some great memories!