By Garrett Mitchell, Staff Writer
Opponents of Woodruff basketball usually do not learn a valuable lesson until it is too late whenever they step on the court with the Wolverines.
Do not underestimate Natalie and Nathan Montjoy.
Natalie, a junior, and senior Nathan have been a driving force behind the overwhelming success experienced by the Woodruff basketball program early this season. The lady’s team rolled to a 6-0 start while the boys’ squad started 5-1. It does not take a scholar of the game to understand how much the Montjoy siblings have contributed to the hot start.
“Natalie has improved because she worked all summer through every phase of the COVID-19 protocols the South Carolina High School League enforced,” said Woodruff girls’ coach Jon Jansen. “She did not miss a practice all summer and has not missed a practice in two years on varsity. She probably shot more shots than anyone this summer and has worked hard at her defensive stance.”
Woodruff boy’s coach Bryan McConnell echoed similar praise for Nathan, who as unassuming as he may look, has been a force for the Wolverines.
“Nathan has something that you can’t coach, and that is his innate ability to go find the ball,” said McConnell. “He has always been that way. We use him as an example all the time of how to move without the ball, offensively and defensively.”
Much of Nathan and Natalie’s skills come from a fierce but friendly backyard rivalry.
Ever competitive, the Montjoy siblings have always pushed one another to be better. The results have manifested on the court. Natalie is a jack of all trades for the Lady Wolverines, averaging six points, five rebounds and three assists per contest. Nathan is one of four Wolverine boys who average double figures in points at 10 per game and rebounds at a nine per game clip.
“Playing against one another growing up, it makes us both better,” said Nathan of his sibling rivalry. “We play in the backyard all the time and then sit in the living room until after midnight watching film. We show each other things we can do better and try to help each other as much as we can.”
Natalie says she is thankful for her brother’s tutelage but admits that there is a concerted effort for each to one-up the other.
“The competition in our family, it means a lot to us,” she said. “We hustle for each other and play for each other, and our family.”
To look at Natalie and Nathan, you could even forgive teams overlooking their presence amidst of both Wolverine teams’ star power. It is a mistake that most often is to their detriment.
Both undersized, Natalie stands at 5’6’ and Nathan at 5’10”, it has never once been a hindrance to their on-court play. Both simply have a desire to win that stands taller than their physical stature.
Nathan routinely guards opponents’ tallest player, often outsized by more than five inches, yet is the team’s leading rebounder and has scored 10 or more points in four of the Wolverines’ first six games.
Natalie plays much the same, with an intangible flare that makes every player around her better. It is a common sight to see both dive on the floor for loose balls, keeping possessions alive, and dishing the ball to teammates for easy baskets when they are not scoring themselves.
“For me it started in middle school with Mrs. (Mary) Runyans,” Natalie said. “She really hammered it in me to hustle and go for every loose ball and give it my all.”
Nathan added, “(Defensively), I know I have the support of my teammates. Guys like Dyon (Bartley) drop down and help me. It allows me to stay with and guard my man.”
Both coaches also know how beneficial it is for Natalie and Nathan to have one another, and how bringing the best out of each other also helps bring out the best in both Woodruff teams.
“Having an older brother definitely makes Natalie tougher,” said Jansen. “Natalie is the better shooter from the three-point line whereas her brother attacks the rim very consistently.”
“I’m sure the relationship with his sister has helped (Nathan),” he said. “I know that (Natalie) looks up to him and he takes care of her. They play the same style of game so it’s kind of special for them to have that with one another.”
Most importantly, however, Natalie and Nathan Montjoy are always there for one another. Their support for each other transcends their backyard, hard top rivalry as both take center stage on the hardwood for the Wolverines.
“I never want to get beat by my little sister,” joked Nathan. “But she’s a good player and she knows I have her back.”
Natalie said she loves being able to sit in the stands and watch her older brother play after the Lady Wolverines have finished their game.
“That means a lot to me,” she added. “We love to support each other, and our teams are all one big family anyway.”