clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Know the Summer League Knick: Jean Montero

A hagiography of an under-the-radar player to watch in Vegas this week.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

2022 NBA Draft Combine Circuit Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images

NBA Summer League starts this week for the New York Knicks, and the player you gotta look out for is their 19-year-old guard, Jean Claudio Montero Berroa.

Jean Montero’s story is nearly mythological. Born in the Dominican Republic, Jean played basketball as a youngster using a basketball rim fashioned from old bicycle wheels. Then, according to Wikipedia: “He started playing the sport seriously at the age of 10 or 11 through Club DOSA in the Villa Juana sector.... He began idolizing Kobe Bryant after watching the 2010 NBA Finals, where Bryant was named Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP).”

While still 13, Montero distinguished himself as a guard on the Dominican Republic’s national team at the 2017 FIBA Under-16 Americas Championship. The following year, at FIBA’s Under-17 World Cup, Montero stood out with averages of 15.4 points and 4.9 boards in seven games—despite being two years younger than his peers.

In 2018, Montero attended DME Academy at Daytona Beach, FL, where he scored 20 points and eight rebounds per game, while also playing for the NightRydas Elite in the under-15 division of the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League.

In December 2018, at the Centrobasket Under-15 Championship, he netted 25.8 points, eight boards, and five dimes, won a gold medal, and was named tournament MVP.

At the 2019 FIBA Under-16 Americas Championship, the 15-year-old topped all players with 30.3 points and logged 9.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 3.3 steals per game. He logged a blistering 49 points, 12 boards, and six steals in the Bronze medal game. That performance attracted offers from both U.S. high schools and international clubs, and ultimately, Jean took his talents to the Spanish club Gran Canaria.

That same year, Montero was named MVP of Basketball Without Borders in Medellin and played in the Valencia Tournament, where he averaged 21.3 points, 4.8 boards, four dimes, and 1.8 steals for Gran Canaria’s Under-18 team. He logged 30 points, six rebounds, and seven assists in their title game, led his team to victory, and was named MVP of the tournament.

If you had to take shot every time this kid gets a Most Valuable Player honor, you’d be drunk by now.

For the 2019-20 season, he stood out on Gran Canaria B, the club’s reserve team. His average for the season was 15.3 points, 3.4 boards, and three dishes per game, and he shot a sterling 46% from deep. A proven bucket-getter, his season-high was 28 points.

For the 2020-21 season, 16-year-old Montero joined Gran Canaria’s senior team, where he had posted a high of 33 points in one game and 27 points, six rebounds, and six assists in another. He finished the campaign with 18 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 2.5 steals per game.

In 2021, Gran Canaria loaned Montero to Team Overtime of the Overtime Elite League, for which he averaged 16.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and (holy cow) 3.4 steals over 24 games.

Many prognosticators pegged Montero as a second-round pick in this year’s NBA Draft, and The Athletic’s John Hollinger rated him at number 43. (Subscription required) Unfortunately, Montero’s value tumbled when he sustained an injury early on in a scrimmage at the combine. Jonathan Wasserman at The Bleacher Report ranked the 6’3”, 175 lb. Montero at number one of all the players not taken in this year’s NBA Draft. Wasserman wrote:

NBA teams questioned his 172-pound frame and inconsistent shooting with Overtime, but there is still a good chance Montero’s quickness off the bounce, handle and pacing and passing skills translate to creation and playmaking.

And though his three-point percentages have never been super convincing, he possesses clear shot-making skill, which he showed at the Nike Hoop Summit with four made threes.

There are obvious concerns about his finishing and defense, but Montero’s ability to set teammates up and make jumpers, even if it’s in spurts, could be enough for the Dominican guard to stick in a bench spark role.

After the draft’s conclusion, the Knicks were wise to sign the tantalizing Montero to an Exhibit 10 deal, a one-year contract that could convert to a two-way before next season. Alex at No Ceilings wrote:

What Jean Montero lacks in size (6’2” 170 something lbs), he more than makes up for with his creativity and craft. Coming into this season, Montero was atop my list of fun prospects to watch, which is why when he decided to take his talents to Overtime Elite (“OTE”), I was a bit wary just given the unknown about the new venture. However, after a handful of games, he has continued to dazzle me and actually looks more poised and comfortable than he did last season. Now, don’t get me wrong, the level of competition is questionable and the overall play style of OTE is pretty unstructured, but Jean Montero has thrived in this environment that allows him more freedom with the ball in his hands.

Alex went on to praise Montero’s shooting, passing, and driving abilities. He noted how, in 2019-20, “he shot 43.5% on 4.18 3PA per game with CB Gran Canaria II” and that “he was HEAVILY leaned on to create offense for his team last season.” His conclusion: “At the end of the day, one thing is for certain: I want the ball in Jean Montero’s hands as much as possible.”

All the offensive stats make me drool, but I will be even more closely attuned to his defensive moves at Summer League because historically he’s been a steal monster. He only turned 19 this month, so there’s plenty of room for Montero to grow both physically and as a basketball player. Let him marinate for a year or two in an NBA system and pack on 20 pounds, and this guy might be a real killer.

Many Knicks fans have been pining for Rokas Jokubaitis to come across the pond and show his mettle, but Jokas continues to play it coy. No worries. After taking a longer look at the Dominican, I’m more excited to see what Jean has to offer.

The first Knicks Summer League game is this Friday. Let’s go Montero!