Friday, May 2, 2014

JUCO Guard Montero On The Radar

If Luis Montero's Division-I profile was a stock it would be a hot purchase right now.

The 6-foot-9 guard/forward averaged 15.9 points, six boards, and three assists en route to leading Westchester Community College to a 28-4 season culminating with a berth in the NJCAA tournament for the first time since 1996.

He's garnered the notice of several high majors. A 19-point performance at the JUCO national tournament in Hutchinson, Kan., turned more eyes to the prodigious Dominican talent.

Montero, a crafty finisher who stretches the floor out and can score the rock in a variety of ways, has budding interest from Alabama, West Virginia, Penn State, LSU, and South Florida.

Alabama had been in consistent pursuit from the start, but WVU has been on the prowl for Montero, who piled up 58 points during the Vikes' final three games and had a 31-point explosion during a thorough 113-86 mauling of Rockland Community College back on Feb.11

"He changed us completely when he arrived this season," said Vikes head coach Tyrone Mushatt.

"We were already good. He made us great. Everyone wants a guy similar to his style because he's 6-9 and can play like a guard. He's a better defender than people think."

Though several offers are on the table, Montero is likely to be thumbing through drawer loads of recruiting mail following Jerry Mullins' Top 100 JUCO showcase in Missouri this summer.

"This kid can make a mistake and you can let it happen without losing your cool, because he's going to make the right play the next 20 times," said Mushatt.

"He's a game-changer. We had a hybrid 3-4 type and we needed Luis' presence in between. He brought that extra stuff."

Montero allowed Bronx-bred point guard Giovanni McLean to become more of a creator, running the floor and facilitating a high-low attack with 6-foot-8 forward Keith Thomas.

Thomas, who evolved into a steady double-double cyborg, committed to St.John's Monday.

Mushatt said the interest from both St. John's and Fordham have skyrocketed the past few weeks and they are both considerable options at this point. Wichita State has tried to make a late push for the ultra-efficient Thomas, who averaged 15.3 points and an NJCAA-best 15.7 rebounds, en route to bagging NJCAA Region XV Player of the Year honors.

"St. John's, I think Keith can really own that place because he would be one of the few New York kids on the roster," Mushatt said. "He's a team guy first, so that's an added plus."

The triumvirate of the Montero, Thomas, and McLean helped the Vikes flee from the dark tunnels of obscuring, earning the national visibility it so lacked the previous few seasons.

South Florida coach Orlando Antigua, who supplanted Stan Heath, has been in constant contact. Antigua, like Mushatt, played for legendary NYC coach Gary DeCesare at St. Raymond's High and is hell-bent on scoring both Thomas and Montero.

Montero, a freshman, still has one more year at Westchester Community.

The three-headed monster, which now has considerable weight on the high-major scale, was able to thrive because of their chemistry and sacrifices during the stretch run. McLean had to depend less on his shot when Montero arrived.

The transition worked in Westchester's favor. Thomas, a deft passer, was the beneficiary of both players. When he drew double teams it was easy to kick it out to McLean and Montero, who shot 52 percent from the floor. Both Thomas and McLean have had their fair share of academic issues. They are slated to graduate from WCC this spring. Both players are 23 and have learned from past mistakes that hampered their recruitment.

Thomas shot 60 percent from the floor during the month of January. His production rate increased in February, when he averaged 20.3 points and racked up several double-doubles.

All three players were instrumental in reviving the WCC program, which had been teetering on the fringe of mediocrity. The Vikes hadn't been relevant since the days of Jarrid Famous, who played at South Florida during the Dominique Jones era.

Now, this trio has become sought after by myriad programs across the nation.

Like his teammates before him, Montero's stock is rising at the right time.