Willits’ Montez earns All-Empire honors, again

 

Jon Montez, the 2013-14 All-Empire Small School Boys Basketball Player of the Year. (CHRISTOPHER CHUNG / The Press Democrat)

Jon Montez, the 2013-14 All-Empire Small School Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
(CHRISTOPHER CHUNG / The Press Democrat)

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By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The greatest boys basketball season in Willits High School history was led by another standout effort from Wolverines big man Jon Montez.

Willits set a school mark for victories, including a record winning streak and captured the Wolverines’ first North Coast Section boys playoff game. Scoring and rebounding leader Montez anchored the campaign, earning The Press Democrat’s All-Empire Small School Boys Basketball Player of the Year honor.

Honored with the top award for the second consecutive year, Montez was an even more complete player in this his third season as a varsity starter.

“After being MVP last year, a lot of players would get complacent. Not Jon. He practiced hard every day, from the smallest drill to the open gym, he came with it every day,” Willits coach Duane Nelson said. “Jon is the big quiet type, a captain leading by example to show how hard he works.”

A 6-foot-6 post player, Montez showed an improved outside game and was a featured ball handler, in addition to averaging double figures in scoring and rebounding a second consecutive season.

Montez took over the top spot on the Willits all-time points list with 1,215 over three seasons, breaking Tim Compton’s mark of 1,109.

“The season was really satisfying,” Montez said. “Our coach helped us stay focused. As seniors we knew this was our last time to have a great season.”

Highlighting the season:

A school record 25 wins — against just three losses — including a 23-game winning streak

Going undefeated to capture the NCL I title.

Winning an NCS boys basketball playoff game for the first time in school history.

Willits players worked hard to prepare for a special season including more hours of open gym and conditioning.

Early results were promising. Willits won two tournaments and finished second in another. The Wolverines took down a number of larger schools.

“We just kept winning, which was awesome. It was great beating bigger teams,” Montez said. “It really helped our seeding for the section playoffs.”

Quick and athletic with soft hands, Montez improved from a strong player down low to a more consistent contributor with outside scoring and passing.

“We put him on the wing to face the basket. Jon is quicker than other guys his size and stronger than smaller ones where he could shoot over them,” Nelson said. “He also improved his ball handling so he could go coast to coast or take people off the dribble in the half court set.”

Accustomed to having the offense largely go through him, Montez welcomed an even bigger role this season.

“I wanted to improve. The great players around me helped. I worked on my passing and getting my teammates open shots,” Montez said.

Passing out of double teams or drawing defenders away from the basket with the dribble made Montez a handful for any opponent.

“Being the leading scorer and rebounder and second in assists with everyone focused on stopping you is amazing. Jon played a lot of minutes and stayed out of foul trouble while doing it,” Nelson said.

Running cross country in the fall helped Montez’s fitness late in games. There was the narrow win at Cloverdale to stay perfect in league play, and Willits won their NCS playoff game at Roseland University Prep.

“I was just focused on winning.” He said. “We wanted to go farther this season. As a team we really worked together.”

One goal of making Montez even more of a versatile player was helping him make the transition to the college game.

“I had to develop more of an outside game. I had a lot more opportunities to drive and shoot,” he said. “I can play all the positions now for sure.”

Montez plans to play in junior college with the leading choices Santa Rosa and Santa Barbara.

In the meantime he is busy playing golf and baseball for Willits. Golf is his second sport, having played it since he was 5 years old.

Juggling school and sports, Montez carries a 3.3 grade point average. Staying busy does not wear him down.

“I’m used to it,” Montez said. “I think I can still get a lot better.”

Michael Coit can be reached at Mike.Coit@pressdemocrat.com

PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Jon Montez, Willits, senior

FIRST TEAM
Will Betts, Willits, senior
Nate Snodgrass, Middletown, senior
Isiah Warren, Cloverdale, senior
Joe Fons, Calistoga, senior
James Leng, Rincon Valley Christian, junior

SECOND TEAM
Danny Partida, Clear Lake, senior
Cole Jessup, Willits, senior
Pablo Avendano, Roseland Prep, sophomore
Corey James, Laytonville, senior
Armani Perry, Archbishop Hanna, junior

THIRD TEAM
Justin Sundstrom, Point Arena, senior
John McMillan, Cloverdale, junior
Tyler McFadden, Tomales, senior
Chris Faulknor, St. Vincent, senior
Chris Hernandez, Roseland Prep, senior

COACH OF THE YEAR
Duane Nelson, Willits

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