Imari Montalvo signed her Letter of Intent at lunchtime on Nov. 12 to continue her basketball career at Armstrong State University. Montalvo, who did not start playing the sport until her freshman year of high school, received other offers from USC of Aiken, Old Dominion, and Delaware State. She was also being looked at by NCAA Division-I school, Troy.
“Armstrong State is a health and science school and has a lot of majors that will help further my career,” Montalvo said on why she chose to become a Lady Pirate. “It is a Division-II school which means it will allow me to focus on my major but also play basketball. When I first met the coaches and players I bonded immediately. It felt like home.”
Armstrong State is located in Savannah. The Lady Pirates are coached by Fala Bullock, who is entering her second season as head of the program.
Bullock took the Pirates to new heights in her first season at the helm of Armstrong women's basketball in 2013-14. Armstrong advanced to the NCAA Championships for the third time in program history and reached its first NCAA Southeast Region title game, falling to eventual Elite Eight participant Limestone. The Pirates compiled a 21-8 overall record, 14-5 in the Peach Belt and finished first in the PBC East Division standings.
Bullock joined Armstrong from Central Georgia Technical College in Macon, Ga., where she started the program in 2011 and directed the Cougars to an impressive 25-6 record in just their second season of competition in 2012-13, advancing to the GCAA Championships.
No stranger to the Peach Belt Conference, Bullock was the assistant coach as well as the Senior Woman's Administrator (SWA) at Columbus State for two years. The Cougars featured WBCA first-team All-American selection Phoebe Smith and compiled a 32-23 record in her two seasons with the program.
Montalvo knows she will have to work hard under Bullock to pick up minutes on the floor.
“Nothing is given and I will need to show the coaches I want to be there,” Montalvo said.
Alexander coach Adam Watts believes his post player has what it takes to succeed at the D-II level.
“She started out as a raw talent and is a second year varsity starter that has come a long way in a short amount of time,” Watts said. “She is tall but has the ability to run the floor. That is what attracted most schools to her.”
Montalvo entered the sport of basketball relatively late in her early life. She did not pick up the game until her freshman year of high school.
“A lot of people were telling me in middle school that I should play because I am really tall,” Montalvo said. “I really did not want to at first, but when I got into high school I decided that I might as well use the gift God gave me. I ended up loving the sport.”
Montalvo has been a starter for the last two seasons under Watts, after playing JV her first two seasons under Marcy Camp.
“When I first started out, it was a bit rocky, but once I started bonding with the girls more it became really fun,” Montalvo said. “We were a hard working team under both coaches and the group we had made me want to do better for my team. They pushed me to my potential.”
Montalvo has also played AAU basketball with the Douglasville Lady Tigers and the Georgia Metros. She plans on majoring in Sports Medicine and wants to be a trainer for a college team and eventually a major sports team.