BOARDROOM SPOTLIGHT

Jean Montero: A Globetrotting Hooper’s Story So Far

Ahead of the NBA Draft, Boardroom learns the inside story of well-traveled phenom Jean Montero from the player himself and his coaches and mentors at Overtime Elite.

In Midtown Atlanta right next to Atlantic Station, Overtime Elite‘s massive, sprawling, brand-new 103,000 square foot facility sticks out like an airplane hangar on a remote desert island.

Of the 27 players who signed six-figure professional contracts to join OTE for its inaugural season to live, learn and play — including four- and five-star prospects expected to make it all the way to the Association — 18-year-old Dominican-born point guard Jean Montero will likely be the first player to reach the next level and enter the NBA.

Boardroom visited Overtime Elite’s facility in March to spend a day with the player and his coaches to discuss his journey to the pros, his experience with OTE, and proudly representing his native country.

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Born on July 3, 2003 in the Domincan Republic’s capital of Santo Domingo, Montero made the tough decision to leave his family and his country to pursue his basketball dreams, playing first in Mexico before spending two years with Gran Canaria in Spain’s top-flight ACB, widely regarded as the No. 2 domestic league in global hoops after the NBA.

“Nobody in the world would leave their family at 13 years old just to play basketball around the world. At first, I was crying because I missed my family, missed hanging out with my friends,” Montero told Boardroom after a practice session. “But I understood that’s what I had to go through to be able to make it.”

Montero began to make a name for himself, making the Dominican Republic’s U-16 national team, playing against current NBA stars Jalen Green, Scottie Barnes, Evan Mobley, and Jalen Suggs in 2017. That was also the year in which his cousin Ricky passed away. The two were especially close; the painful loss gave Montero a higher motivation to push himself towards greatness.

“That year when he passed away, I was going 100% because I knew it would make him so proud of me,” he said, “being able to represent my country and represent my family because you’ve got the last name of your family on the back of your jersey.”

Montero first played for the Dominican Republic’s senior national team in 2019 and was subsequently signed to play in Spain before coming across Overtime’s radar ahead of its OTE program’s first year. He’d been identified by several pro scouts as, at a minimum, a future professional player internationally, and he eventually caught the eye of Brandon Williams, a former NBA executive hired by Overtime as OTE’s Executive Vice President and Head of Basketball Operations.

“Jean had established a reputation. A young player that plays beyond his years,” Williams told Boardroom. “Jean left what was comfortable for him, his friends, his family, and changed continents in order to chase his dream. What we saw were key components of really good NBA guards. Change of speeds, court vision, the ability to direct. And one of the most coveted skills is the ability to shoot it from deep.”

In convincing Montero to move from Spain to Atlanta to join OTE, Williams and his team tapped into his confidence to succeed on his own while receiving guidance at a top-notch facility from former NBA players and execs, including Overtime Elite, including Head Coach and Director of Player Development Kevin Ollie, who know what it takes to thrive at basketball’s highest level.

Montero liked how Overtime was able to come to him and his family and tell them exactly what they were looking for and why they wanted to work with him not just to help OTE win games, but to improve his skill-set for a long-haul career in the pros. That included improving his strength, building his knowledge of the game, his ability to inject pace into an office, and developing skills to play as a leader.

“When we signed Jean,” Williams said, “we all knew what we had was very likely our first NBA draft pick.”

While moving from Spain to the ATL means a major lifestyle change — it definitely helpe that Atlanta is just a three-hour plane ride from Santo Domingo so family could visit more easily — it was also an adjustment on the court from playing both with and against much older professional players to the teenagers that filled out OTE’s roster and competitive schedule. Williams wanted to see Montero command the floor and help four- and five-star prospects, some of whom could become NBA players, while managing personalities and defensive concepts.

Overtime Elite’s 27 players were split into three teams of nine, all coached by former college head coaches or NBA players. College All-American and eight-year NBA vet Ryan Gomes first saw Montero play during a minicamp in Miami when OTE had just signed, as he recalls, a flurry of six or seven players. Montero made quite the first impression on the former Providence Friar, pouring in 41 points and lighting the minicamp ablaze.

 “I said oh, wow, this is the guy I need to get on my team,” Gomes told Boardroom. “He’s a great scorer. He’s fast and energetic. He plays with a big chip on his shoulder. Jean Montero since day one has been one of the leaders.”

Montero prides himself on his leadership skills, remaining consistently vocal with his teammates and teaching them both how to play more effectively together and what coaches and general managers will be looking for in their games. Gomes witnessed his growth in these areas in coaching Montero on Team Overtime along with skills coach Corey Frazier; the 6-foot-3 dynamo clicked with them early and often, leading OTE in scoring in 2021-22 with 16.9 points per game to go along with 6.1 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 3.4 steals.

“They engage with you. They come to you as a friend, talk to you as a friend, and that’s the most important thing as a player,” Montero said.. “And when you’re without your family, being able to have people around you that really feel for you, really care about your feelings is so important.”

Montero grew up idolizing Kobe Bryant while also watching Paul George and point guards like Chris Paul and Trae Young. But the current NBA player he compared himself to was something of an unexpected one: Rockets guard Dennis Schroder, owing to his pace, scoring ability, and confidence on the floor.

But between the two of them, Montero thinks he’s got a better jumper.

Off the court, Jean Montero is a regular kid who likes to listen to and play music, shop, and dance, grooving to artists like Bad Bunny, Ozuna, Myke Towers, and Dominican hitmakers like El Alfa . He’s incredibly well-traveled for a kid his age, but he’s stayed true to his home and his upbringing; when OTE went to a Dominican restaurant in Miami over spring break minicamp, he clued his teammates in on what to eat, especially DR-style chicken, rice and beans, and plantains.

It’s a snapshot of what’s become a recurring feature of Overtime Elite — the program is meant to mold young men into professional basketball players, but it does so by encouraging them to express their authentic selves. It’s all animated by Kevin Ollie’s stated goal to develop “the whole person,” not just the hooper.

“They’ve been doing a lot of things right for everybody here,” Montero said of his OTE experience.

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Heading to the next level, Gomes stressed that players aren’t always going to have the ball in their hands right away and might go a few plays without being an offensive focal point. There are so many seemingly small but ultimately critical aspects of winning basketball that go far beyond shooting the rock, from defensive pressure to anticipation to playmaking, that young talents like Montero need to embrace.

“That’s what I’m trying to open his eyes up to,” Gomes said, “just seeing that it’s not all about if it goes in the basket; it’s about the shot attempts that we did get through your creation. So it’s about letting him be a lead guard and letting him explore himself and use his imagination.”

With draft day now upon him, the NBA dream Montero has held for his entire life is quite likely transforming from imagination to reality, and he’s trying to live in the moment as the time approaches. There have been numerous players of Dominican descent to play and star in the NBA, but very few who were born and raised in the country itself — and only one man will ever be able to say that he was OTE’s first-ever draft pick. With all that in mind, Montero is excited to hear his name called because he’s worked on it for so long. He’s thrilled for the family that let him leave at 13 years of age to begin this basketball journey, as well as for his oldest friends back home in the DR, the new friends he’s met around and world, and for a country he cannot wait to represent as proudly as ever.

“I’m just excited about it because I’ve been working on it for so long. Being able to come from the hood and represent your country, it would make my family so proud of me, a whole country proud of me,” Montero said. “I want to open doors for young kids growing up in the Dominican and just be able to tell them to work. We’ve really got some hoopers. To be able to get drafted as someone born in the Dominican, I want to go out and show the world who we are.”

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