Like a lot of Duke fans, we never much liked Eric Montross when he was at UNC, but were deeply affected by his relationship with 16-year-old cancer patient (we’ve also seen him listed at 15) Jason Clark when he was at UNC.
A lot of athletes do the PR thing and go in and visit, and that’s wonderful for the kids but takes minimal effort from the athletes who go back to their regular lives within a few hours.
Montross didn’t do that. He committed himself to a long-term relationship with the kid, to the point where many people thought it affected his play. How could it not? He bonded with Clark who passed away. It must have been very difficult for Montross.
Before he died, Clark wrote out a list improvements he thought that UNC could use for pediatric cancer patients and Montross dedicated himself to putting them in place. He dedicated himself to helping Clark and when he could no longer help him, he honored him in memoriam.
Montross announced this weekend - well, his family announced - that he also has cancer. The type of cancer has not been specified but it doesn’t really matter.
This is a guy who committed himself whole-heartedly to a kid who was dying and now he has the same disease? It’s the cruelest sort of irony.
When he was a junior, UNC put together what may have been Dean Smith’s finest team. The 1982 national champions were better, but the ‘93 team was the purest distillation of what Smith taught. That team was full of good but not great players who sacrificed for each other and formed a superb team. If you could have caught him in a quiet moment, we suspect Smith might have said things about ‘93 that he wouldn’t have said about ‘82.
Montross was a huge part of that. Like he did with Clark, he gave off himself fully and without reservation. We hope all Duke and ACC fans join us in wishing him nothing but the very best as he faces a most difficult opponent.