Greg Monroe will end his college career without a single NCAA tournament win. His Hoyas never finished higher than eighth in the Big East, and he did not cement his place as a legendary Georgetown big man.

Yet to characterize Monroe’s two years on the Hilltop as anything but a success would be foolish. His work on the basketball court made him a sure-fire lottery pick in the NBA draft, something every basketball player dreams of accomplishing. By staying for his sophomore year, he made sure he would be a good pro, not just someone that made it to the NBA.

Monroe’s time is now. His draft stock will never be higher, his skill set is polished and ready for the big stage, and the labor climate in the NBA makes waiting another year far too risky.

The NBA could be headed for a lockout in a year, and even if the players and owners reach a new collective bargaining agreement before then, it will not be player-friendly. If Monroe waited another year, he would take a serious hit to his first salary while running the risk of not even having a job.

In most 2010 mock drafts, Monroe is projected to go between picks six and nine. According to the National Basketball Players’ Association rookie scale, the sixth pick in this draft will make about $5 million in the first two years and the ninth pick will make $4 million. Even though 2009 mock drafts put him in the lottery after last year, Monroe felt he needed another year to develop. He did just that, improving his rebounding, adding the dribble drive to his repertoire, and becoming more aggressive. Always known as a great passer, he again drew rave reviews for his court vision and awareness, dolling out 12 assists at Providence and seven apiece in the Big East tournament quarter- and semifinals.

Monroe’s biggest weakness is his outside shooting, but he will have more time for practice jump shots when his job is solely to be a basketball player and not to attend class or do homework.

And for those purists who say Monroe should stay and get his degree, get off your academic high horse. What is the point of college if not to prepare young men and women for what lies ahead in their lives?

Monroe is ready to enter the next stage in his life not only as a good basketball player but also as a mature person, something he proved when he eschewed millions of dollars to return for his sophomore year. Try to find another Georgetown student that would prefer to finish up those core and major requirements rather than taking their dream job when the opportunity presents itself.

Besides, Monroe will have plenty of time to get his degree when he is not playing basketball, like former Georgetown star Jeff Green, who takes summer classes in the offseason to work toward graduating. Athletics have different requirements than jobs in investment banking, law or politics. Players need no degrees, but must take advantage of a fleeting time window while they are in their physical prime.

Though the timing is perfect for Monroe to jump to the NBA, it is far from ideal for his place among the legendary centers at Georgetown.

He came to a team reeling from the loss of the spectacular Class of 2008 and was one of many talented but inexperienced players that stumbled to a 16-15 record and a first-round NIT exit in 2009. This year, Monroe and the Hoyas seemed primed for a great finish, but the team’s late-season bout with illness and inconsistency doomed Georgetown to an eighth place finish in the Big East and a stunning first-round upset in the NCAA tournament.

Monroe’s best achievement was the Hoyas’ thrilling run to the Big East tournament title game, but even though he earned all-tournament honors, Chris Wright was Georgetown’s brightest star.

From a team standpoint, Monroe’s two years featured far too many disappointing losses and too few big wins to put him in the same company as the likes of Patrick Ewing (CAS ’85) or Roy Hibbert (COL ’08), both of whom won a Big East title and played in the Final Four.

“I’m honored to follow people that were so good here, but I don’t compare myself to them,” Monroe said during the Big East tournament. “Me being here just two years, I can’t put myself in the same category as those players.”

Monroe’s ability and stats put him in the same league as other great big men to come through Georgetown, but he does not have the longevity or team success to put him on the top tier.

That does not mean Monroe’s time on the Hilltop was fruitless. His name will be called early in the NBA draft this summer, the Hoyas will hang his jersey in McDonough during the fall and Georgetown can be proud of the solid professional basketball player and person it produced for many years to come.

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