“His family is grateful for the tremendous support and the truly overwhelming love expressed by so many people as he battled with his signature determination and grace,” his family said in a statement issued through the University of North Carolina.
“To know Eric was to be his friend, and the family knows that the ripples from the generous, thoughtful way that he lived his life will continue in the lives of the many people he touched with his deep and sincere kindness.”
His family said Montross died Sunday surrounded by loved ones at his Chapel Hill home.
Montross played for Hall of Fame coach Dean Smith at UNC from 1990 to 1994, and he was the starting center when the Tar Heels won the 1993 national championship. He was a first-team All-ACC selection that season, and he was a two-time Associated Press second-team All-American.
“Carolina Athletics, the Tar Heel basketball family and the entire University community are profoundly saddened and stunned by the loss of Eric Montross, one of our most beloved former student-athletes, at far too young an age,” UNC said in a statement. “Eric was a great player and accomplished student, but the impacts he made on our community went way beyond the basketball court. He was a man of faith, a tremendous father, husband and son, and one of the most recognizable ambassadors of the University and Chapel Hill.”
Montross was selected ninth in the 1994 NBA draft by the Boston Celtics. He also played for the Dallas Mavericks, the New Jersey Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, Detroit Pistons and Toronto Raptors during his eight-year NBA career.
Since his playing career, he had served as a radio analyst for UNC game broadcasts for 18 seasons and worked as the senior major gifts director for the Rams Club, the fundraising arm of UNC’s athletic department. He was also known for his charitable efforts, such as helping launch a father-child basketball camp for Father’s Day weekend to support UNC Children’s Hospital.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.