Home / Inside the League - Exclusive Interviews / Inside The League (4): A TLN Exclusive Interview With Former Celtics Top Pick Eric Montross
Inside The League (4): A TLN Exclusive Interview With Former Celtics Top Pick Eric Montross

Inside The League (4): A TLN Exclusive Interview With Former Celtics Top Pick Eric Montross

Typically thought of as one of the best college basketball players of the 1990′s, Eric Montross went on to be selected by the Celtics with the 9th pick of the 1994 NBA Draft, and made the All-Rookie Team. He ended up playing 8 seasons in the NBA for a few teams, but it’s what he did off the court that will impress you. I caught up with Eric to get an insight of his basketball career, as well as his post-NBA activities.

Brian Rzeppa (BR): You made were an All-American in high school, and from Indiana. What made you choose North Carolina over Indiana?

Eric Montross (EM): I think it was most recruits or highly recruited kids would say, it comes down to where you feel most comfortable. Although I had the good fortune to choose from big schools, it had to be a decision that I would have a good launching pad for the rest of my life.

BR: When you won the National Championship with North Carolina, it was over Michigan. What was it like to win the National Championship? And also, did you do some trash talking since your father played for Michigan?

EM: I think that as a competitor you search for whats the pinnacle of success in your sport, and that its. When youre in college, you may not understand the gravity of your accomplishment. But as time goes on you realize it.

It was interesting because my sister was at Michigan, she was in the stands in Carolina and she was wearing Carolina colors. I spent a lot of time at Michigan growing up, so it was very interesting.

BR: You were also an All-American in college for two years, what was your reaction when you found out about both of these selections?

EM: It’s a great honor, and I think that even with the individual honor, so much of what North Carolina was based on was on team awards. We appreciated the individual accolades, but Coach Smith was not about individual awards. The great thing was that we were winning, and that our individuals were being rewarded, too.

BR: 1994 was a big year for you. You started the Eric Montross Father’s Day Basketball Camp. What made you start this camp?

EM: As a student athlete at Carolina I was volunteering at the children’s hospital, and one day there was a call into the men’s basketball office and a mother said, “My son is a huge fan of the Tar Heels and we’d love for someone to come in.” So, I went to visit Jason Clark, and we became fast friends. I quickly recognized that he had a great maturity to him. He ended up dying from stomach cancer a few months later, and before he died, he gave his mother a list of ways for the North Carolina Children’s Hospital to improve. And with the connections that I had, I had the ability to tackle Jason’s list. As we went through, most of the things have been achieved. The camp begins for the 19th year this year, and we’ve been able to contribute over 1 million dollars to the children’s hospital.

BR: What was the pre-NBA draft process like for you with all of this other stuff going on?

EM: It was terrific, it was a culmination of a lot of hard work to reach the highest level of basketball in the world. In my class there were a lot of terrific basketball players, and I knew a lot of them, and I wish I would’ve started journaling as a youngster, so I could have written down everything that was going on.

BR: Ultimately, you were selected with the 9th overall pick by the Boston Celtics, did you expect to go this high? And also get picked by the Celtics?

EM: Our feeling was that it would be somewhere in the top 10. To be a lottery pick was a great privelage. To promote a sport that does such great work was amazing.

BR: Which one of the teams you played for was your favorite? And why?

EM: Its hard not to look back at Boston as one of those favorites because I was playing 36 minutes a game and made the Rookie All-Star team and was part of a great history in Boston. I love the history of what they represent. I didn’t have a bad experience in any of the cities I played in, and I was fortunate to have those opportunities.

BR: You retired in 2003, how did you come to this decision? And did you still have any feelings of wanting to return?

EM: It was an easy decision because it wasn’t one that I could make. I had a foot injury in Toronto and spent much of my time on injured reserve. I had to call Glen Grunwald and told him that this wasn’t something I could go on with, and that I was very appreciative. I just had to accept what was at hand, at the time it was tough to swallow, but it was out of my control, so it was a bit easier in that.

BR: What brought you to be a broadcaster?

EM: It’s interesting, it kind of just fell in my lap. Mick Mixon, the play-by-play man of the Carolina Panthers, left that year, and the general manager of the radio station called and asked if I wanted to do it. So I told him that we should try it for a year, and it was a great fit.

BR: Who are your favorite players in today’s NBA?

EM: My son’s favorite player is LeBron James, so he’s a magnet whenever the Heat are on. I love watching Vince Carter and Tim Duncan, and it’s amazing what he’s{Duncan} done. I love to watch the Spurs and how they play.

BR: What are you doing outside of broadcasting?

EM: vaccineambassadors.org is a new proposition. We’ve partnered with the Pan-American Health Organization and we’re going to take vaccines all over the world through the genoristy of folks all over the US. We hope to give the same fortune that we have as a country to kids in developing countries all over the world. Were going to start in Haiti and go around the globe. (You can also find this non-profit at @VaxAmbassadors on Twitter)

BR: Do you have any advice for aspiring NBA players?

EM: Yep, stay in school. I think that it’s a wonderful dream for kids to have, but reality is that not many have the opportunity to have that career, or a long one. It’s a lot of hard work and dedication, and there’s also a lot of pride involved. It can be a great vehicle for success in life as well.

He may not be the big name that many of the players from his draft class are as far as his NBA resume, but Eric Montross is helping more people across the globe than most people could even dream of. While I’m sure that he would have appreciated an NBA career full of superstardom, what he is doing now is better than anything he could have done on the court.

He was a pleasure to talk to, and is a prime example of how athletes can use their status as a way to help others.

This is the fourth part of my weekly series, so stayed tuned for more interviews from players, coaches, and general managers!

Thanks for reading!

About Brian Rzeppa

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