By Cesare Milanti / email@example.com
At the end of the third quarter of Argentina-Dominican Republic, played in a packed house in Mar del Plata, the hosts alongside Venezuela, Brazil, Puerto Rico, and Mexico were temporarily qualified for the 2023 FIBA World Cup. Argentina was leading 64-54, and nothing could have stopped them.
But then, Jean Montero happened. After entering the fourth decisive quarter with 13 points, the 19-year-old guard stepped up once again for his country. He scored 22 points in the win against Venezuela, and he followed with 19 in the next winning encounter against Panama. And he did it again.
His 9 points in the last ten minutes helped Nestor Garcia’s team produce the comeback with a 25-11 run, beating Pablo Prigioni’s squad 79-75 on the road. And getting for the third consecutive time to the World Cup, pushing Argentina out for the first time since the 1982 edition.
“And man… We going to the World Cup. That’s 𝐔𝐍𝐁𝐄𝐋𝐈𝐄𝐕𝐀𝐁𝐋𝐄!” #FIBAWC x #WinForDominicana 🇩🇴 pic.twitter.com/O3CWgDTMCG
— FIBA Basketball World Cup (@FIBAWC) February 27, 2023
“I feel the responsibility of putting our flag on the highest level, and I fully believe we will be at the World Cup”, he said before the last FIBA World Cup Americas Qualifiers window. And with those 22 points with 8/13 from the field and 4/4 at the line, Jean Montero wrote history for his country.
“That has been the most important game of my life. I’ve been so excited about this game. I’ve not assimilated that we are in a World Cup yet. Every day before its starts in August I’ll think about it. Representing the Dominican Republic and its people in a World Cup is something that any player would be proud of. I feel very proud that I did a good job. And now let’s go there to work and enjoy it”, Jean Montero said in an interview with Eurohoops.
The high-level talent, who proved his potential back in 2019 averaging 30.3 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game in the FIBA U16 Americas Championship, shared the court – among others – with Angel Delgado and Andres Feliz, who are playing respectively with Pinar Karsiyaka and Joventut Badalona.
But theoretically, he can be joined by NBA superstars when things get more serious in Japan, Indonesia, or the Philippines. Karl Anthony Towns, Chris Duarte, and the veteran Al Horford have all had experiences with the Dominican national team in the past, and Jean Montero had nothing but good words for them.
“It’s their decision, but for me, it would be an honor and a pleasure to have them on the team as well. I understand that by joining us, trying to compete, and helping us in that regard, we would do an excellent job. So, hopefully, it will happen. I’m not going to lie: we hope, we truly hope that they commit to us and that they want to play. We will welcome them with open arms because they would be crucial players for such an important moment for the homeland”, he added.
Also, that historic 79-75 victory came against a team full of International stars. In front of its beloved fans, Argentina had names like Facundo Campazzo, Nicolas Laprovittola and Brussino, Gabriel Deck, Carlos Delfino, Patricio Garino, and Leandro Bolmaro on its roster.
Facing them and coming out victorious gave an extra taste to the winning feeling. “Campazzo was one of the players I saw most when I was in Gran Canaria the first year. I saw many of his highlights. In my opinion, he was the best point guard in Europe when he played in Madrid: the ability to organize the game, to involve his teammates… I had the opportunity to play against him and I told him on the court that I’m a massive fan of his. It was a nice experience to compete against players you usually watch on TV or mobile. Having the opportunity to defend and compete against them was really really significant”, Jean Montero commented on his Argentinian opponents.
After being one of the most attractive talents in the world in International youth competitions with the Dominican Republic, he was acquired by Gran Canaria in 2019 and moved to LEB Plata with the B side, while being an unstoppable force in the EuroLeague Adidas Next Generation Tournament as well.
Despite that first abroad experience, when he was 16, he didn’t have doubts about his capability. “It was something that I could master, I was dominating since my 13-14 years”, he said before explaining better his attitude. “I always want to be the best anywhere I go, because I am a very competitive guy and I always like to give the most in whatever challenge I face. Three years from now, I see myself at my best, because every day I’m competing and improving. I hope I’ll be playing in a good team here in Europe where I can compete at the highest level. Thank God that gave me a unique talent, I am very blessed”, Jean Montero added.
After being undrafted in the 2022 NBA Draft following an experience with the Overtime Elite and the Summer League with the New York Knicks, the 19-year-old came back to Europe to play in the ACB League. Still, on loan from Gran Canaria, he’s trying to help Real Betis in the battle for relegation.
“My adaptation was very quick, really. I feel very pleasant here, I love the city. And being one of the referents gives me a lot of satisfaction and desire to continue working and motivating me. I think I try to stay true to reality and keep being on that wave of continuing to compete and improve every day”, he said about his first weeks in Sevilla.
🔥 Tiene 1⃣9⃣ años y esta noche 𝙣𝙤 𝙡𝙚 𝙝𝙖 𝙩𝙚𝙢𝙗𝙡𝙖𝙙𝙤 𝙡𝙖 𝙢𝙪𝙣̃𝙚𝙘𝙖 para echarse el @RealBetisBasket a la espalda y firmar un partidazo de los que no se olvidan…
¡JEAN CLAUDIO MONTERO BERROA!
¡Qué JUGADOR y qué VICTORIA!
¡2⃣8⃣ 𝗽𝘂𝗻𝘁𝗼𝘀!#LigaEndesa pic.twitter.com/BpHlzcSnpl
— Liga Endesa (@ACBCOM) March 4, 2023
Averaging 14.6 points with 48.9% from two and 85.7% at the line, 2.6 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game – but struggling from beyond the arc with 5/24 -, the 19-year-old talent has been a force of nature for Luis Casimiro’s team in his first five appearances with the team.
This impact made a lot of green-and-white fans refer to him as the next Shannon Evans, who left for Valencia and the EuroLeague back in January. “I’ve never spoken with him, but there are some fans, mostly kids, who always tell me that I recall him. I had the opportunity to see him playing in the last game with Real Betis before going to Valencia. It’s a pity he’s gone, but we are now focused to stay in the ACB”, Jean Montero said about Shannon Evans.
Following the steps of EuroLeague starts such as Facundo Campazzo, Toko Shengelia, and Mike James, who are the three players he saw “the most when I played my first year in Europe”, the 19-year-old is living the most important chapter of his career.
Waiting for the 2023 World Cup, where he dragged the Dominican Republic as a veteran, Jean Montero keeps on being one of the most exciting and intriguing players to watch in the International basketball scene. The journey to becoming a defined superstar has begun.
PHOTO CREDIT: FIBA World Cup Americas Qualifiers