Renee Montgomery has become one of the greatest players in the history of the program for the leadership she has displayed and for what she’s done on the court. It was enough for Geno Auriemma to make her the first active player inducted into the Huskies of Honor Feb. 15.
Renee, Diana Taurasi and Jennifer Rizzotti are the only players in team history with 1,500 points and 500 assists in their career. Renee, Svetlana Abrosimova and current assistant coach Shea Ralph are the only players in team history ranked in the Top 10 in scoring, assists and steals. And, one more thing … Renee is the only player in team history ranked in the top 10 in scoring, assists, steals and games played.
But there is a side to Renee that most people do not know. It’s one that elicits laughter from her teammates and the coaching staff. It’s her role as the leading prankster on the team. She started right away, preying on Tahirah Williams during the summer of 2005 when they were both just freshmen and didn’t know each other all that well yet. Heck, she even played a joke on her mother recently. So, obviously, no one is safe.
“I just like messing with people,’’ she said.
That might be an understatement. That first summer together she told Tahirah that Super Bowl XL was going to be held at Memorial Stadium and the players were going to be able to get tickets just like they do for their own games. And, yes, it was that Memorial Stadium. The same on-campus venue where the UConn football team used to play.
Renee got the coaches involved. She got the rest of the team involved. And for one very long day Tahirah was going crazy trying to get her hands on as many tickets as she possibly could.
“I thought it would be funny,’’ Renee said. “And then I realized how gullible she was so I just kind of ran with it. She has a big family. There’s like seven boys, seven girls and 13 grandkids or something like that. There’s a lot of them. So I’m going around talking to all my teammates like, `Just tell her you gave me all the tickets.’ She always gets this bright idea, `I’m going to go ask the coaches.’ Meanwhile, I had already gotten to T Cardoza and Double J (Jamelle Elliott). `They’re like, No, no, no. I need mine.’ She starts going crazy. She calls her dad. Her dad clearly doesn’t believe her. He’s like, `Just get them if you can get them.’ She’s gullible. I can always get her. Freshman year was rough. I’m glad she didn’t leave us.’’
The joke lasted until Renee said Tahirah started to cry because she couldn’t get any tickets. That and the fact that that everybody was tired of her begging them for their tickets.
“Personally, I would’ve never told her,’’ Renee said. “She would have went to the Super Bowl if it was up to me. I would never have told her. The whole time we’ve been here it’s been a running joke. Something’s always going on with her. I can’t even count how many things I’ve done to her.’’
Renee struck again in class that year when Tahirah was up in front giving a presentation. I’ll let Tahirah give her side of this one.
“You never want her to be in your class while you have a cell phone in your pocket on vibrate,’’ Tahirah said. “So we’re in class. It was anthropology and we had to talk about a tribe that we researched. So I had my phone in my back pocket and you could see it because I had my tight jeans on. I’m sitting there in front of the class talking and I feel a little buzz in my butt. And I’m like, `Oh, my God.’ So I just start cracking up laughing. Everyone’s like looking at me. She has this stone cold facial expression on like nothing’s happening. And I’m dying laughing. I’m like, `Hold on guys.’ And I’m pressing my butt like this (to turn off the phone) so it looks like I’m scratching. And I’m the only one in the class like laughing. I finally figure out it’s her calling me. And I’m like, `Renee, stop it.’ And she’s like, `What are you talking about? What am I doing?’ I said, `You know what you’re doing. Stop it.’ So everyone’s thinking I’m nuts and this was like the first ever class I had. She’s just so bad.’’
This year there was another episode. Again, Renee was the culprit and Tahirah was the victim.
“I had a project,’’ Tahirah said. “We were being a PR firm for DeBeers, the jewelers. And she was in the front row and I’m talking. Meanwhile, we only got through one slide. I’m the second slide and I’m ready to go. And I see her face and I just start freezing up. So I was pronouncing Angola, `Angolia.’ And then the teacher’s like, `Forget it. Sit down. I’m going to give you extra time to do it.’’’
Tahirah, laughing as she recounted the stories, promptly says that she loves Renee to death. That doesn’t mean she is any less gullible just hours before she’ll be honored on Senior Night at the XL Center. She might like to think so, but Renee, of course, isn’t completely sold on that one.
“She catches on maybe sooner,’’ Renee said. “It’ll go like a week for a joke sometimes. But now she catches on like two days later. She’ll be like, `You guys …’’’
Fellow senior Cassie Kerns is savvier than Tahirah. She doesn’t let herself get caught in Renee’s web of kind-hearted mayhem.
“Cassie doesn’t believe anything that comes out of my mouth unless it’s about basketball,’’ Renee said. “That’s the only thing.’’