When freshman forward Montre Andrews came to Indian River High School, he knew there was a very good chance that he’d have a limited role behind junior forward Jeremy Purnell on the Indians’ varsity basketball team.
He’d have to come in quiet, work hard on his fundamentals and show head coach Pat Kelly that he was worthy of getting more than just a handful of minutes.
But leading up to the Indians’ opening-round game in the Daily Times Mason-Dixon Cup against James M. Bennett, Andrews learned that a hand injury would most likely keep Purnell out for the rest of the season and that he’d step in as one of the team’s starting forwards.
“J.P. (Jeremy Purnell) was supposed to be our anchor this year and it’s tough losing him,” Andrews said. “But when that happens you’ve just got to ball up.”
And though Andrews looked the part of a freshman in his first start against the Clippers, scoring only two points in a 60-43 loss, his play was an essential piece of the puzzle in the Indians’ 79-55 win over Mardela in the consolation game.
“It’s all I could think about during our last two practices,” Andrews said of his recent promotion. “I just knew I’d have to step my game up and do my best.”
Andrews recorded his first career double-double at the varsity level, scoring 19 points and pulling down 10 rebounds (six offensive) on 9-14 shooting. He had one blocked shot and even added an assist.
He made his first two shots of the game to help the Indians to a 16-9 first-quarter advantage and then ran the court very effectively when senior Drew Gibbons and sophomore Jamar Manuel broke the press, mopping up the easy baskets in transition.
“They kept feeding me the ball and I just put it in the basket,” Andrews said.
And while Andrews’ playing time may’ve shot up due to necessity, head coach Pat Kelly is quick to mention that his freshman forward is still green and has a lot to learn before he can become the player that he wants to be.
“Montre has got himself quite an opportunity,” Kelly said. “But he has to work on some of the finer points of playing basketball. He’s got to learn to seal (the inside) with his body, to move around the seal (on defense), work on his left hand, shoot with two feet and keep his arms straight up (on defense), which is a lot for him to gain. But he’s a coach-able kid. He’s going to get the minutes.”
And as a freshman playing varsity basketball against more physically developed players, such as Delmar’s Barry Bratten, Kelly praised Andrews’ efforts in the weight room over their two-day stretch between games during the holiday and his willingness to do what is asked.
“Montre was in the weight room before practice both days, lifting weights and working out. And even though it threw his shot off a little bit, it’s good to know that he listens,” Kelly said. “He’s still not physically strong yet, so it’s good to see that he is willing to put in the work into becoming a better basketball player.”
Despite Andrews’ most recent success in only his second start of the season, Kelly knows that the Indians won’t be able to slice through defenses quite as easily as they did against Mardela to get easy points and that he’ll have to become more aggressive in the half-court offense if he’s going to continue to improve his game.
“It’s easy to score 19 points when the defense isn’t there,” Kelly said. “Montre runs the court, which is what we want him to do. But the question is, when the other team gets us into our half-court offense, is he going to be as effective?
And this transition will take some time, because, after all, he is still a freshman. Just last year, Andrews was playing middle-school basketball and was arguably one of the better players on the court.
“It was hard at the beginning,” Andrews explained, “because I’ve been used to being one of the big guys on the court, and coming in here I knew that I was going to have to work for whatever I got.”
“But I understand that,” he added.
And, apparently, the fruit of Andrews’s labor is starting to pay off, because following the game, Mardela junior forward Monroe Ross — who finished the two-day tournament with 22 points and 22 rebounds — paid him the ultimate compliment.
“You make All-Bayside?” queried Ross. “What? No, man. I’m only a freshman,’ Andrews replied. “Oh, well. You’d make All-Bayside if you were in our league,” replied the second team All-Bayside honoree.
Later, Ross went even further.
“I was surprised that kid was only a freshman,” Ross said. “He’s got some game, but he’s only going to get better.”