By Jonathan Okanes
Wednesday, March 19th, 2008 at 12:27 pm in off-season stuff.
I just got off the phone with James Montgomery, and he said the main reason he decided to leave Cal is that he simply never felt comfortable there.
Coming to Cal in the first place wasn’t a slam dunk for Montgomery. He’s said it before and he told me again on the phone that his choice to attend Cal was more of a family decision. Even when he was being recruited, Montgomery wasn’t sure Cal was the right fit for him. But his family really wanted him to stay close to home, and as Montgomery put it, “they basically told me to go work hard and try to make it work.” He said he did that but “didn’t feel happy in Berkeley. I never felt it at Berkeley. It never really did it fr me.”
Montgomery also said he never made the comments that were reported by RealDawg.com that questioned Cal’s tradition or its ability to sell out games even when the team was highly ranked.
“There’s a lot being twisted,” Montgomery said. “I would never talk bad about Cal. Everybody knows I’m a team guy.”
Indeed, the comments from RealDawg.com seemed out of character from Montgomery. I can’t say if he actually made those comments or not, but just based on my interaction with him, they were surprising. But again, I’m not in position to choose to believe either side because I obviously wasn’t there for the conversation.
Montgomery also said the competition with Jahvid Best for playing time had nothing to do with his departure.
“People keep asking me about the competition with Jahvid. It was never about that,” Montgomery said. “The best guy plays wherever you go. We’re such a tight group, we didn’t even care who played. People think there is a rivalry, but we did everything together, on and off the field. There were never any malicious thoughts.”
Montgomery said even though his heart told him he wasn’t comfortable at Cal, it was still a tough decision because of the friendships he had made.
“Everybody knows I love (my teammates),” Montgomery said. “It was never about them. They’re my guys. We’ve been through a lot together. It was my decision.”
Montgomery said he plans on finishing the semester at Cal and is “checking out a couple of schools right now.” I asked him specifically about some of the schools that have been speculated (Washington, Oregon, Florida, Fresno State), but he declined to get into specifics.
Although Montgomery said he never was really comfortable at Cal, he said he went in with an open mind and sincerely tried to make it work.
“I went in and worked hard,” Montgomery said. “I didn’t come here to not make it work. I came here and worked hard. It’s just more how I felt.”