Whether it's knocking down a clutch free throw, playing air tight defense or breaking through a double team and tossing a cross court pass, Katie Montero is earning more and more respect from her teammates with each passing game.
The Bloomingdale High sophomore has taken on a leadership role for a youthful Lady Bulls basketball team that is reliant on her playmaking abilities. She is currently averaging six points, two assists and four steals per game as she guides coach Joel Bower's offense through a tumultuous season in which the Bulls have lost twelve of their first fifteen games.
"I like it," Montero says of being charged with the task of leading the Bulls. "It's a lot of fun, and I think the girls have learned to trust me. I like being vocal and letting my teammates know when they do something right or wrong. The more we play together the better we get. We just have to be patient and keep working hard at it."
It was in the fifth grade that Montero got her start playing basketball, but she has never played for a team outside of school. Many players polish their skills in AAU leagues, but according to coach Bower, Montero hasn't required a youth league to develop as a player.
"She's a natural athlete," Bower said. "She's such an easy kid to work with, and she picks things up quickly. In the offseason, we'll work on quickness and strength with our entire team, but I think it will benefit her a lot as she grows as a player."
As for the future, basketball hasn't figured into Montero's plans for life after high school just yet. While she is open to the prospect of playing at the collegiate level, she is focused more on enjoying her time with the Bulls.
"I'd like to go to school and play, but I have to wait and see if that is something that I can do," Montero said. "I like being part of a team because it's like having a second family and you can just get all your anger out on the court. I want to help every one of my teammates and lift them up when they make a mistake but I'm only one person. It's hard to lose like we have been this season, but I still just love being a part of this team."
The Bulls (3-12) took on Brandon (0-12) on Thursday at the Eagles' gym, winning 43-38. Montero led the team in the second half, knocking down 10 free throws for all 10 of her points and consistently breaking through the Eagles' full court press to give the Bulls a chance to spread the lead.
The intensity of the game was something that Bower hopes will benefit his team, particularly Montero, who he wants to develop even further over the next two seasons.
"She's my coach on the floor, so experiences like tonight are something I hope she can take with her and draw confidence from," Bower said. "She had a great second half, and I thought it was great to see the way she made her free throws when it mattered the most. We're struggling this season, but she's our MVP and the glue that holds us together."