D-League Hopeful Alford Ready To Silence Critics

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Updated: October 28, 2016

All eyes in the basketball world turned to Cleveland this week, as the defending champion Cavaliers took on the new-look New York Bulls Knicks in the NBA season-opener.

With the entire basketball world watching LeBron & Co. dismantle the Knicks, NBA D-League hopeful Montigo Alford had a different game-plan for the night: go to work.

Working as a bouncer at a nearby lounge Alford, who stands a mere 5-foot-9, is wrapping up his last few days of work before embarking upon his first step in his journey into professional basketball.

The thought of seeing a Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram working nights during the offseason before their rookie year is humorous to consider, but for Alford it is a necessity.

With a young daughter at home, Alford is on a mission to deliver her the life that he was not able to experience growing up.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Alford’s parents separated when he was two years old, an event which led to instability financially. As he tells D-League Digest, the challenges that he faced were at times difficult to overcome.

“Sometimes our lights wouldn’t be on for a month, or other times it would be the gas or the water that was out. A lot of people would have thought that it was too hard, but it taught me to be thankful for the things that I have and not worry about what I didn’t,” Alford said. 

Despite the struggles that he faced in his home life, Alford was able to shine both on the basketball court and on the gridiron. A guard on Summit High School’s basketball team and a running back on their football team, he experienced success that most high school athletes could only dream of.

Though he had a lengthy track record in high school, his phone remained silent during recruiting season. Though he had teammates receiving scholarship offers to Division 1 schools, he didn’t let it phase him or impede his dreams.

“I was always being denied that I couldn’t do something because they said I was too small. A lot of people doubted that I could play at the next level, so I worked hard and played with a chip on my shoulder to get someone to give me an opportunity,” he said.

That opportunity was eventually delivered, as the College of Southern Idaho reached out. For someone from Los Angeles the thought of moving off to Idaho couldn’t have seemed like an ideal fit, but the lessons he wound up learning there paid off in a big way.

“My time at CSI definitely gave me a lot of toughness to myself and to my game. It grew me up to become a better person and a better man and to be more appreciative of everything. Anything can happen, so whatever is in front of you is what matters,” he said.

Named All-Region during his red-shirt sophomore season, Alford was able to attract some attention from Division 1 programs. Ultimately, he chose to stay in-state and move on to Boise State University, joining a team that was fresh off of a 21-win season.

The increased level of competition and bigger crowds can spark fear in some junior college prospects, but for Alford it was a walk in the park.

“I was so ready for that jump. Both physically and mentally I was ready to go up against Division 1 players and prove myself on the top level of college basketball,” he said.

In a spark plug role off of the bench, Alford ranked only behind Mountain West Player of the Year Derrick Marks in his efficiency from three-point land and with a handful of the team’s top players set to graduate, the door was open for him to breakout during his senior season.

This wouldn’t come without its own bumps in the road though, as hernia surgery over the offseason took away his chance to prepare for the season the way that he planned on.

“The injury definitely messed me up a lot because I was playing so great and was looking like the starting point guard and I just thought ‘Darn, now I have to start all over again.’ I have to admit, I lost some hope and it scared me a bit since it was my senior year and since it’s the D1 level, you never know if you’ll get your spot back,” he said.

Powering through the recovery to his surgery, Alford made his first start in his Division 1 career in a season-opening game against Montana and would eventually go on to make nine more throughout the season.

With his game rounding into form over the back half of the season, including hitting 60% of his three-pointers during the last two months of the year, Alford began to consider some options for his basketball future.

He felt that his most realistic option was to jump overseas, but once the window opened for an opportunity in the NBA D-League, he jumped in head first.   

“I wanted to go overseas, that was my main goal to go over across the water and the D-League never really crossed my mind. Gino [Pilato], called me and about this opportunity and I was shocked. I thought it would be a great chance for me to prove myself and I’m really excited about it,” he said.

As an athletic guard that thrives in space and in high-paced systems, Alford seems to be an ideal fit for the league. Operating more outside the strict confines of offenses at the collegiate level, Alford believes he should be able to make his mark.

“I think it’s actually perfect for me if I can get back to doing what I was doing at CSI, being a tough, scoring guard. I can use my speed a lot more on offense, but I can guard anybody on defense, too. A lot of people underestimate my defense because of my size, but I cherish defense and I love being able to show people up.”

Like many that are entering or have entered the D-League in the past, Alford is hoping to use this opportunity as a stepping stone for bigger and better things.

“I want to just prove to the world and people that are watching that I can play. I want them to say, ‘He’s a 5-foot-9 guard, but he can play basketball. He should be playing somewhere either in the league or across the water.’ I want to increase my opportunities in the professional basketball world and I think this is the best way to go about it,” he said.

On the precipice of the biggest opportunity of his life, Alford’s drive for success expands far beyond awards and banners.

“My daughter is all of my motivation. It’s the hardest thing that’s happened to me, but also the best thing that’s ever happened to me.  The most important thing to me is that I want my daughter to have anything she wants and not go through the stuff that I went through growing up. I want her to see that daddy is working hard so she can have the life that I want her to have,” he said.

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