Following Georgetown’s ignominious exit in the first round of the NCAA tournament, the question that had been left unasked all season came to the fore.
Was that Greg Monroe’s last game as a Georgetown Hoya?
“No . it wasn’t,” was Monroe’s response.
Minutes later Head Coach John Thompson III offered his input.
“I think that he’s going to sit and make that decision as time goes on right here,” he said.
Monroe could be back next year, giving Georgetown its most talented and experienced team since Jonathan Wallace and Roy Hibbert graduated. He could also be in the NBA, joining Jeff Green, Hibbert and DaJuan Summers as a Thompson protégé that made it to the sport’s highest level.
Aran Smith, president of NBADraft.net, thinks Monroe will be in the NBA next season.
“I hear that he is going to come out,” Smith told me in a phone interview. “I hear that even though he said in the media right after the [Ohio] loss that he was going to go back that that was actually probably untrue, that he just said that in the moment. I think [he will get drafted] in that six to twelve range.”
Choosing to enter the draft certainly makes sense for the Hoyas’ center.
It’s easy for fans to say that Monroe should come back to build on some of the successes of this season, but that’s misdirected hope. He needs to do what’s best for him.
The NBA’s collective bargaining agreement is set to expire on June 30, 2011, which could bring about a lockout. Whether or not a lockout occurs, one thing that is clear is that the new agreement will not be very player-friendly. NBA teams are losing money – how much is anybody’s guess – and the owners aren’t going to agree to a player-friendly agreement.
The owners, wealthy businessmen, have staying power during a work stoppage; the players do not, which means that concessions will have to come from the players’ union.
If he comes out now, Monroe – who is projected to go seventh by NBADraft.net and ninth by Draft Express in mock drafts – can sign his contract before the new agreement with the likelihood of better compensation and a paycheck before a lockout starts.
“It’s sort of a doomsday scenario right now where the players who wait until next year [to enter the draft] could be waiting longer to get paid,” Smith said.
One of the many things that Monroe has going for him in this process is that he would have been a lottery pick last year, he is one this year if he chooses to go pro and he will be one next year if he stays in school for 2010-2011.
He didn’t take the Jeff Green road to the top of the NBA draft board. While Green, a very good but underrated player, used a monstrous Big East tournament and East Regional performance to work his way to a top-five pick, Monroe has been a lottery pick from the day he set foot on the Hilltop.
When the dust settled on the Hoyas’ train wreck of a season in 2009, Monroe was hovering near the top 10 of the draft board. Most people would have taken the money and run. Monroe did not, because unlike too many elite athletes who buy into all the hype about themselves, he saw some things he felt he needed to improve on if he wanted to be a good NBA player, not just a high draft pick.
“It was just a decision I had to evaluate myself. I had to ask myself: Was I ready to make that jump physically and mentally? Was my skill set at the level it should be?” Monroe told The Hoya in October.
“Some people are content just to go and say, `I’m a pro.’ He wants to say, `I’m a good pro,'” Thompson said.
This is what makes Monroe so unique and what will probably make him a great pro when he decides to make the jump.
Monroe’s draft status is slightly better than it was last year. A line of 16.1 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game en route to a first team all-Big East selection will do that for you.
Monroe’s court vision and his passing ability are unparalleled for someone his size.
“He’s the best inside passer in college basketball, easily,” Syracuse Head Coach Jim Boeheim said. “And he can score in there.”
Centers aren’t supposed to thread the needle to find a teammate for easy points, but Monroe can. His post moves are excellent and when the Hoyas made a concerted effort to get him the ball this season, Monroe showed just what he can do.
Another year could give Monroe time to tidy up some loose ends of his game, but Smith doesn’t see his stock going up or down in the next 12 months.
“I don’t know that he could improve his draft stock, like where he would go next year,” Smith said. “He would probably go around the same range.”
There are, of course, some things that he could work on.
“He’s a strong, big guy, he can pass the ball and he has great low post moves,” Jeff Green told The Hoya last year. “He has to work on his shot obviously, but I think he’s going to be a great, great player in the end.”
That mid-range jump shot that made Green so dangerous is still absent from Monroe’s repertoire.
Smith thinks Monroe’s jump shot doesn’t suffer from anything that being a pro and making basketball his full-time job couldn’t fix.
“I think he can improve it,” Smith said. “I think that’s one of those things where you get to the NBA and being around basketball so much the jump shot just improves naturally.”
By most accounts Monroe enjoys life at Georgetown and playing basketball on the Hilltop. While the sting of D.J. Cooper’s threes is still there, this year’s group of Hoyas showed that if the core group remains and continues to mature, next season could be a special one.
If he stays, the Hoyas could return all seven of its rotation – nine if Henry Sims and Vee Sanford are included – with four quality recruits coming in, now that highly touted Moses Abraham has committed.
Monroe can come back next year, with all the obvious risks that go along with that decision, and the Hoyas will be in the running for both a Big East and a national title with a talented starting five and a deep bench. If he does so it would be awesome for Hoya fans, but if he decides to leave the Hilltop after two years it would be hard to begrudge him.
The promise he saw on the court may have left him feeling as if he has some unfinished business with the Hoyas, but if we’re talking business then it might be best for him to go.
Based on last year, whatever he chooses will be well thought-out and will be what is in his best interest.
If Ohio was his last game, then he deserves thanks for his efforts these past two years. But if it wasn’t his last game in a Hoyas’ uniform, his name could one day be held in the same breath as Ewing, Mourning and Mutombo.
Ryan Travers is a senior in the College and a former Sports Editor at The Hoya. Follow him on [Twitter](https://twitter.com/illprocedure). He can be reached at traversthehoya.com. Illegal Procedure appears in every Friday issue of Hoya Sports.”