The recruiting trail, as it is proverbially called, is something that never stops. By the time the 2013 hoops class graduates, it’s on to 2014. Before the 2014 class matriculates to seniority, it’s onto 2015. So when I stumbled upon some info about 2015 guard/forward Luis Montero, I knew it was time to do some more diligent research on the kid.
Luis Montero, the 6’7, 185-pounder from the Dominican Republic, plays his high school ball for the same team as Terps 2014 big man target Goodluck Okonoboh: Wilbraham & Monson Academy in Wilbraham, Mass. Montero showed up on the scouting radar when he came to the United States last summer, and has since garnered interest from both Kentucky and Maryland thanks in large part to his outstanding play at the EYBL circuit with the NY Lightning.
So far during EYBL play, Montero has averaged nearly ten points (9.6), 5.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists, and 1 block and 1 steal per game. It’s that versatility that makes him such a coveted wing prospect at the next level, and why he is on the Terrapins watch list. As it stands currently, Montero is rated No. 65 in the 2014 class by 247Sports, and the 12th-best small forward prospect. Considering how much he’s improved already, he stands to make some major leaps in the future.
Strengths: Vision, Versatility, Athleticism, Swagger
When you watch Montero play, his game is so mature that you get the feeling he’s a bit older than a sophomore/rising junior in high school. Those facts aren’t unfounded, either, because there are some age issues at play with Montero. That being said, if there’s one word to describe his game, it’s smooth. Montero plays basketball the way some veterans do: they let the game come to them. He floats around the court a lot when he’s off the ball, but even when he’s on the ball he can temper his speed enough to keep defenders off-balance at all times.
But don’t mistake smooth game with a lack of athleticism, because Montero has plenty of that. Montero has a bit of Nick Faust to him in that he will never mind having the ball in his hands. He already has an impressive array of crossover dribbles that allow him to dismantle defenders before rising up to the rim and jamming it home, or dishing it off to a teammate down low, where he excels. Montero can also grab rebounds pretty well for a guy at his position, although he is far more active on the defensive glass.
Speaking of Montero’s dribbling, it’s some pretty impressive stuff; he uses his length and size against smaller opponents to routinely create space. He dribbles low to the ground and will put his back to the basket to confuse defenders and zip around them.
Montero also has that “it” factor to him. He reminds you of Greivis Vasquez in that he’s a very emotional player on the court, and any time he plays, you’ll know he’s out there. He feeds off that energy, and appears to have the utmost confidence in his ability after making big plays. If you want a better picture of Montero, think Nick Faust, but replace the street style of play with a far more European finesse. I say European because Montero has gotten the Euro step down pat, and has no issues getting to the rim using that technique.
Finally, you have to love his vision with the ball. Montero is a little thin at this point to play the three, but as a shooting guard he can really alleviate pressure on the point guard because of his ability to handle the ball. Montero finds guys streaking all the time, and will likely never be confused for a ball-hog. He seems to enjoy making the “flashy” play, and takes chances because he’s creative enough to have capitalize on those small passing windows.
Weaknesses: Turnovers, Strength, Shooting
Fortunately for Montero, a lot of his weaknesses are ones that are very much correctable through proper training and more experience. We can start with his biggest weakness, which is his free throw shooting. During the EYBL circuit, Montero hit below 60% of his free throws, despite getting to the line at a decent rate (he shot 42 FT’s over 18 games). His mechanics aren’t particularly bad, so it may be an issue of focus. For a wing, that number has to improve for his game to really take off.
He’s also a patchy shooter, despite possessing a very deadly step back jumper. Again, his form is actually pretty decent, but he lacks the natural touch of some players. Montero hit 34% of his 3Pt attempts this summer, which isn’t bad but certainly leaves room for improvement. He doesn’t get a ton of bounce on his jump shot, but he doesn’t necessarily need it with his length. Given all of Montero’s other developed tools, it’s likely that he hasn’t worked as hard at shooting since he can break down defenders in so many ways.
One of those tools is his creativity while dribbling the ball. While that’s good sometimes, he does have a tendency to dribble a bit too much, and ends up getting himself into trouble and the result is a turnover. Sometimes he tries to thread passes through impossible spaces, but that’s something he can easily correct when he gets his game more under control.
Finally, his strength isn’t where it should be for a small forward or guard. He has broad shoulders and he’s incredibly young, so adding some weight to that frame should not be much of an issue. He’s a junior, so it would be wise for him to start hitting the weight room this year and seeing what he can build on. He has the agility down, now he just needs some power to his game.
It’s still really early in the game, but Montero has openly said that he wants to be a Terp. That’s a pretty definitive statement right there, but it’s also the statement of a kid, meaning it’s subject to change from day-to-day. Montero does like that the Terps started recruiting him first, and while Maryland hasn’t offered him yet, there’s a good chance they will. And considering his closeness with another Terps prospect in teammate Goodluck Okonoboh, Maryland might want to continue this courtship a lot more in hopes that it bears more fruit.
That being said, with a loaded 2014 class, Maryland has the luxury of focusing on extremely talented 2015 players, and while Montero is on that list, he may not be the highest prospect the Terps are aiming for. It’s sort of a wait-and-see approach, and as such we’ll know more about Maryland’s interest in Montero a bit further down the line. A fast riser like him, though, is worth keeping tabs on for the next couple of years.