Saturday, October 18, 2014

Westchester's Montero Aggressively Pursued By SJU And More

A late growth spurt and a new, more prominent role involving an uptick in ball handling and a score-first mentality has shaped Westchester Community College's Luis Montero into one of the nation's fastest-rising recruits.

The ceiling on Montero, a transcendent 6-foot-9 guard/forward, is still unknown. The St. John's target has played only half a season of JUCO ball, attracting a full menu of Division-I interest from across the country.

After practicing with the Dominican national team this summer, the hounding intensified.

Four days after that initial practice week, Vikes head coach Tyrone Mushatt fielded a call from SMU head coach Larry Brown.
Brown, the former Indiana Pacers boss who wore out his welcome during a testy and controversy-stained one-year stay with the New York Knicks, has helped resuscitate a left-for-dead program in Dallas.

USC, SMU, St. John's, South Florida and Arizona are all in persistent pursuit of Montero, who will devise a campus visit schedule as early as next week.

Right now it's an open field. Montero's high-major appeal is most notably linked to a diversified folder of tools.

He's a threat to dial in from beyond the arc.

He can dice defenders off the dribble.

 He can score consistently via self-creation, with a knack for splitting into the driving lanes and finishing at/above the rim. He's become more adept as a passer and creator.

 Mushatt said it would be a disservice not to have the ball in his incoming go-to-guy's hands as much as possible.

And what to say of Montero's considerable wingspan, those Pippen-long arms that seem as long as stickball bats?

"He's a better defender than people think," said Mushatt, who listed SJU as a potential suitor.

"(St. John's) is in the gym here every chance they get," explained Mushatt.

While his identity is that of an electric offensive threat with a janitor's supply of hard-to-guard tools, Montero still has just 16 JUCO games under his belt. This season will gauge his leadership and determine if he can thrive while shouldering a bulk of the offensive load.

He averaged 15.6 points, 5.9 boards, and 3.0 assists in 16 games as a freshman, erupting for  31 points during a wire-to-wire 113-86 bludgeoning of Rockland Community College.

 He scored 20 points, shooting the rock at an 8-for-13 clip, during a win over Harcum College. Montero dropped 19 points on 7-for-11 FG during the Vikes' final game of the regular season, an 82-70 win over Baltimore City Community College.

That marquee win allowed the JUCO landscape to feel the Keith Thomas-Gio Mclean-Montero triumvirate, which burned down its own pathway to the NJCAA tournament in Hutchinson, Kan.

Bordered by the 6-foot-8, 23-year-old Thomas (15.3 points, NJCAA-best 15.7 boards, 65.4 percent FG) and 24-year-old Giovanni McLean (16.3 points, 7.3 assists, 5.0 boards), Montero's late arrival solidified this troika.

"He brought that extra stuff," Mushatt explained. "We were good. He made us great."

McLean, a mercurial scoring threat armed with dazzling handle, is currently up the Merritt Parkway at Quinnipiac.

 Thomas, who entertained budding interest from Florida State, Miami, Fordham, Loyola-Chicago and late pitches from Dayton and Arizona, is 25 minutes from WCC's Valhalla, N.Y. campus at St. John's.

The Johnnies hosted Montero last night, along with a cadre of top-profile recruits underscored by extraterrestrial Roselle Catholic point guard Isaiah Briscoe and Our Savior New American forward Cheick Diallo.

Last season, Montero was purely a secondary player. Mushatt implemented a tweaked triangle offense, empowering his three high-efficiency scorers on one side of the rim.

Alabama's colossal fan base has all but promised a locker and luxury dorm room with Montero's name on it. Bama fans appear to keep carrying a torch proudly for him.

 The Crimson Tide were one of the first schools to pursue Montero in March, following the Vikes 101-99 loss to Wallace State in the JUCO national tournament.

Is 'Bama still in the hunt with the front pack?

"I haven't heard from them in months," Mushatt said.

What he has heard is the unmistakably loud footsteps of Joel Angus, an interior scoring forward who averaged 12.6 points as a supplementary piece to Thomas in the paint last season.

Strong, athletic and effectively changing floors, expect an amplified role from Angus this season.

 The Vikes will orchestrate the offense through John Dewey, a tough little guard who has taken game management responsibilities into his own hands this fall.