Montero jeans inspired by Kobe to play basketball

ATLANTA — There are many paths to the NBA outside of the traditional college route.

LaMelo Ball and RJ Hampton opted to play overseas in Australia’s National Basketball League before entering the NBA draft. Luka Doncic, international player, has chosen to stay in Europe and develop his game in the EuroLeague.

For 2022 NBA Draft hopeful Jean Montero, his path began in the small village of Villa Juana in the Dominican Republic.

At age 7, Montero walked past a television that caught his eye. He had never seen this sport before. It was Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers playing against the Boston Celtics. He stood there for 45 minutes, mesmerized by basketball and especially Bryant.

“At that time, Kobe inspired me a lot to play basketball,” Montero told Yahoo Sports. “What I took from him as a player was just not being afraid of anyone and going after them. That Mamba mentality.”

Montero continued to work on his game, and others soon realized he was good. Very well.

At just 13 years old, he has played in three divisions of the FIBA ​​Americas U16 Championship. Two years later, he averaged 15 points at the FIBA ​​U17 Basketball World Cup. Since then, he has played in grassroots basketball’s most competitive league, the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League, and professionally in Spain for two years.

Last spring, he became the first international prospect to sign with the inaugural league, Overtime Elite.

“After playing professional overseas for the past two years, I knew joining OTE was the best option for me as a player and my development for the next level,” Montero said.

Montero has been one of the best players on the court all season. He led all players in scoring with 368 points and has excellent vision on the open court, having two games with 10+ assists. When Montero is in the game, the rhythm changes and his teammates play at a higher level.

“We have a lot of young talent here from the United States, and I’ve really worked to be a leader on the pitch. I’ve learned a lot from my teammates, and that’s really helped prepare me for the next level. in the NBA,” Montero said.

After Bryant’s retirement, Montero watched a lot of Paul George and Chris Paul. At 6-foot-3, Montero understands he’ll have to be a sneaky, smart point guard who can create for others at the next level — something Paul honed during his 16-year NBA career.

Yahoo Sports’ latest mock draft projected Montero as a first-round pick. In the final two games of the regular season, more than 25 scouts watched Montero and other potential draft picks.

“Having NBA scouts in the building inspires me a lot because I want to show them what I am,” Montero said.

The Dominican Republic is best known for its baseball prospects and not necessarily basketball, but Montero hopes to change that and give the young kids of Villa Juana someone to look up to.

“Not many people know that the Dominican Republic has great basketball skills. It would mean a lot to me to represent the Dominican Republic in the NBA,” Montero said with a smile.

Last year, Dominican-born Chris Duarte finished 13th overall for the Indiana Pacers and became the first Dominican player to be selected in the lottery since Al Horford. On June 23, Montero hopes to advance a player from the Dominican Republic to the first round two years in a row, paving the way for all young basketball players in his home country.

Overtime Elite’s Jean Montero is projected as a first-round pick in the NBA Draft in June. (Provided by Overtime Elite)

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