While the Dominican Republic has previously featured NBA players on their Men’s National Team (i.e. Al Horford and Karl-Anthony Towns), they have yet to take the team as far as the Olympic Games. After showing flashes of brilliance at various junior FIBA events around the world, 2003-born Jean Montero — a scoring guard, currently developing with Gran Canaria in Spain — provides some additional reason for hope as the DR continues to pursue their Olympic dreams.
After earning Adidas Next Generation Tournament MVP honors last year, Montero was with a different-looking team this past week in Valencia and did not have the same level of performance during the 2020 tournament. However, he still showed an improvement in his strength and increased willingness as a playmaker. What has really stood out about Montero up to this point is his ability to handle the ball, create shots off the dribble from every level and the flashes of deep range as a shooter. He has impressive quickness, functional athleticism that helps him get rebounds and pounce into passing lanes, and has an ability to play both on and off the ball.
He would have been a top 2022 recruit had he stayed in the United States, where he spent some time with DME Academy (FL) and played on EYBL U16 with Nightrydas Elite (FL). He was also a star of the 2019 Basketball Without Borders America event before moving to Gran Canaria in September 2019. He seems to be focused on a professional career, even getting some time with the club’s senior team, which is sure to be a more regular occurrence in the year to come. With his high-level quickness and athleticism, along with acumen for scoring and creation, Montero is someone who could be talked about as an NBA draftee as early as 2022 and a future cornerstone of the Dominican Republic National Team.
During the 2020 ANGT in Valencia, Pro Insight’s Jason Filippi had the opportunity to sit down with Montero and discuss his background, how he wound up in Gran Canaria, his basketball influences, his preferred coaching style, how he spends his free time, and much more.
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present 2003-born prospect Jean Montero, originally from Dominican Republic:
Pro Insight: Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
Jean Montero: I am 17 years old and I am from the Dominican Republic. My family lives in Santo Domingo. I have two brothers and a sister. I am in the middle. Both my brothers play basketball, too, but not at a professional level.
PI: How did you end up in Gran Canaria?
JM: Well Gran Canaria was one of the teams recruiting me after I had played well at the 2018 World U17 Championships (in Argentina). The following year I played well again (was the leading scorer) at the 2019 FIBA U16 Championships in Brazil and they made the final push to convince me to come to Spain as soon as I could. My dad had been fielding the many offers I had been receiving and he felt that Gran Canaria was the best situation for me. So then in September 2019 I made up my mind and decided to accept their offer. It was not easy for me to leave Dominican Republic and my family out of the clear blue. It was tough in the beginning because I really missed my family.
PI: So you are alone in Las Palmas? Has your family been able to visit you?
JM: I live in a team-owned dorm with some of my teammates. So far only my dad has been to Gran Canaria – he accompanied me when I went there the first time.
PI: Before you came to Spain you had made a name for yourself with various Dominican Republic National Teams but where else did you play? Is there a pro league there?
JM: I didn’t play professionally in my country but, in addition to training with the National Team, I spent some time in the USA in Daytona at the DME Sports Academy and then in South Carolina where I competed in Nike EYBL U16 circuit which my team won. This was a great experience and it also gave me an opportunity to improve my English.
PI: What do you like to do in your free time?
JM: I like to read a lot. Books about basketball especially. I am trying to read more books written in English now, too.
PI: This is your first full season with Gran Canaria. You had the opportunity to play your first games with the ACB team earlier in season. Can you talk about your experience practicing and playing with the pro team for the first time?
JM: It was a pleasure practicing with these guys. They helped me improve my game a lot and to gain more experience as a young player. The coach gave me a lot of confidence and the players gave me a lot of advice on how to improve my game. As a young player I like what they are doing with me and the role that they are giving me.
PI: You basically play only with Gran Canaria pro team and minor league LEB team but not with the Junior Team that you are participating at this tournament with. Has that been kind of strange?
JM: Yes. I didn’t even practice with them until the other day, so we are still getting to know each other. When I would have had the opportunity earlier in the season to practice with them, there had been some positive COVID cases on the team, so we had to stop practices due to quarantine protocol.
PI: How is this current ANGT team different from last year’s which won the tournament?
JM: I think that last year we had a much more experienced team. A lot of the guys who I played with on that junior team also played on the LEB team unlike this year where they are two totally separate teams. Last year I was one of the younger guys while this year I am one of the oldest. We were a more mature team from a physical standpoint with guys like Khalifa Diop, Ruben Lopez and Adriano Del Cero who now play with the Gran Canaria LEB and pro teams too. I am good friends with Khalifa Diop – I think he is a really good player!
PI: How old were you when you first started to play basketball?
JM: I was like 8 or 9 years old when I first started to play basketball. It was with my cousin and we started to shoot some hoops just up the street in someone’s driveway. So I really started to play just for fun but then after a while it got more serious and I wanted to go play for a local basketball club because I could get better training there.
PI: Do you prefer a hard and tough coach who is always yelling at you to teach you or more a coach who just lets you do your thing?
JM: To be honest, I prefer a coach who shows his confidence in me and gives me the freedom to make my own decisions on court (laughs), but I will admit that sometimes it is good to have someone who corrects your mistakes and tells you what to do.
PI: Do you consider yourself to be a vocal leader on your team?
JM: Yes, I think so. I am trying especially hard to lead here at this tournament because this team is much younger than last year’s team.
PI: You played well in the first game but today admittedly you struggled a bit with your shot. However, I noticed that you seemed to be content with just setting up your teammates. Did that just happen naturally?
JM: Well yes, I am getting to know my new teammates better now so it is starting to come naturally. When my shot is not going in, I always try harder to get my teammates more involved in the offense. I like to pass the ball when the opposing team is focusing on me and throwing two defenders at me because this means that one of my teammates will be open.
PI: If your team is down by one point in the final seconds though do you want the ball in your hands?
JM: Yes, definitely. Not afraid (laughs).
PI: Who is your favorite player and who is the player that you try to emulate or that you have been compared to?
JM: Kobe Bryant has always been my favorite player. The first basketball game I ever watched was in the 2010 NBA Finals when Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol teamed up and won the championship (against Boston). And the player that I model myself after the most is Miguel Suero – a professional player from Dominican Republic. A lot of people have told me that I play a lot like Dennis Schroeder. Not sure if that is accurate but I do like the way he plays so I guess he could be a good guy to model my game after.
PI: And who is the toughest player you ever faced in your career thus far?
JM: It was probably in my first pro game with the Gran Canaria ACB team – we were in Zaragoza and I was matched up with Dylan Ennis. He was very tough to play against for me because he was so much stronger than me.
PI: So you have noticed a physical gap between the minor league and pro league?
JM: Yes, definitely. That is the reason that I have decided to work more on my body now. I realized that I need to get stronger (to play at pro level) and I need to be faster, become more explosive.
PI: What are you doing to improve your body? Did you change your diet perhaps, too?
JM: I am working a lot more before/after practices and going to the weight room on my own. I haven’t really changed my diet, though. Luckily, we have a full-time chef at the team residence and he makes some very good food that is pretty nutritious too.
PI: What is your favorite food?
JM: My favorite food is tortillas.
PI: What do you do in your free time?
JM: I love to play video games. NBA 2K, Playstation, Call of Duty.”
PI: What’s the most recent song you’ve downloaded or listened to?
JM: Probably something from Myke Towers – he is a singer/rapper from Puerto Rico.
PI: I am sure that you have been approached by many USA colleges, too. Are you considering or have you considered going the college route?
JM: Well yes, a lot of colleges have approached me. But to be honest in this moment I am just focused on my pro career and helping the Gran Canaria team. Right now I am happy with this decision.
PI: There is already a lot of talk about you being an NBA talent. Is the NBA a realistic goal? Is it something you think about already?
JM: Yes. Of course. That is the dream of every basketball player and playing in the NBA is my ultimate goal, too.
PI: So where do you hope to be in say 10 years from now both on a personal and professional level?
JM: I don’t really think that far ahead. I will turn 18 soon and that is already a huge milestone. I think I have a mature and serious mindset so I will take things step by step. Hopefully though I will be playing professional basketball – hopefully in the NBA.