Bio

DON KETCHUM is a native of Phoenix. He was a sportswriter for The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette for nearly four decades. He covered high school sports on several occasions as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State sports. From 2008-14, he was a staff writer for AIA365.com, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Sky's the limit for Gator basketball's Oltrogge

Are you ready for your geography lesson?

Here goes: Montana is now in Arizona, but next year will be in Idaho.

Before you go scurrying around looking for a map, it’s not as confusing as it might seem.

Montana Oltrogge is right here at Xavier Prep, preparing for what she hopes will be an outstanding senior season on the basketball floor. When she graduates, she will move on to play college ball at Idaho State in Pocatello. She recently signed a national letter of intent.

The 6-foot Oltrogge is a good all-around athlete and player. She can run the floor, rebound and her shooting touch is very much improved.
Senior Montana Oltrogge isn't worried about the gator sneaking up on her. She's more concerned about helping the XCP basketball team have a strong season. (Photo by Don Ketchum).

Her first objective is to stay healthy. Knee issues sidelined her for most of her freshman season and part of her sophomore year and a few games as a junior. If she can survive the 2017-18 season unscathed, Xavier’s chances of traveling far into the playoffs will rise dramatically.

Oltrogge said that dealing with the injuries “was the hardest thing ever. People said that I would come back better than before. It’s happened a little bit so far, but I want to have it happen for a whole season.’’

One of the reasons for her optimism has been her training approach and trying to stay in shape, particularly in the weight room.

“I feel a lot stronger now,’’ she said. “I want to be able to finish more layups, including those with contact (from an opponent). Rebounding, too. I want to get as many as I can.’’

And there is the matter of putting the ball in the basket, not just layups.

Year by year, it seems that Oltrogge’s shooting range has increased. She said much of that improvement has come through working with Jennifer Gillom, XCP’s assistant coach for her first three years and now the Gators’ head coach.

As a junior, Oltrogge averaged 15.3 points in 15 games, 4.9 rebounds, shot 50 percent from the floor and 71.8 percent from the free-throw line.

“Montana is coming into her own,’’ Gillom said. “Her maturity level has really blossomed. It’s not just physical, but in the example she sets, being a more vocal leader. I know she wants to leave here with a state championship.’’

Oltrogge said Gillom, who was Xavier’s head coach from 2006-11 before going on to coach in the WNBA, has created more of a team atmosphere where the players are more supportive of each other than ever.

“I think we are going to push the ball down the floor quite a bit,’’ Oltrogge said. “A lot of fast-break stuff. We have a lot of athleticism.’’

Oltrogge said her relationship with Idaho State began in club ball but also carried over to Xavier. She continued to talk to the coaches, took a trip to Pocatello and met some of her future teammates.

“It (Pocatello) is totally a college town,’’ she said. “There seems to be about a thousand people there each game, which is pretty good. When I visited, I had people come up to me and say, “We’re going to come and watch you play next year.’

“The players there all love the school and I’m looking forward to going there (pre-med). The coaches say that I am going to have to work for my position, and that’s the way it is supposed to be. That’s the way I did it here at Xavier.’’

Tournament -- The Gators will open the season on Monday (Nov. 20) and continue most of Thanksgiving week in a tournament co-hosted by Gilbert Highland and Gilbert Mesquite. Xavier’s first three games will be at Mesquite. The first opponent will be Tucson Pueblo, on Monday at 5:30 p.m.

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