Greg Monroe stands at center of Georgetown's success

By Liz Clarke
Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Exceptional in many ways, Greg Monroe, Georgetown's towering sophomore center, is also, like any teenager, a work in progress.

Monroe was nearly unstoppable in Sunday's loss to Villanova, taking command of a foundering offense to finish with 29 points and 14 rebounds.

For an earlier three-game stretch, however, he was a shadow of that player -- turnover prone against more bruising defenders at Marquette; tentative against Connecticut, taking just two shots during the Hoyas' miserable first half; and idling on the bench in foul trouble for much of the victory over Seton Hall.

In an ideal world in which 19-year-old, 6-foot-11 phenoms are afforded time to grow into their bodies, Monroe would be right on target in his development. He has made major strides from his freshman to sophomore season, emerging as a more active playmaker and vocal leader on a Georgetown team (13-3, 4-2) that sorely needed both.

But in the real world of high-profile college basketball and high-stakes NBA teams clamoring for capable big men, Monroe has become the subject of intense behind-the-scenes debate and daily revision.

One day, Monroe draws hosannas as a sure-fire NBA lottery pick. Other days, he elicits measured critiques as a gifted youngster in need of more heft and aggression if he's to realize his potential.

What's undeniable is that the 12th-ranked Hoyas will go only as far this season as Monroe takes them. What remains to be seen is just how far the broad-shouldered center can carry the Hoyas -- and whether he'll return for a third season on the Hilltop, as Jeff Green did before bolting for the NBA, or possibly a fourth, as Roy Hibbert did.

On the latter question, it's difficult to get a read from Monroe, who insists he's having the time of his life as a Georgetown undergraduate and isn't thinking about his future, focused solely on helping his team win games.

"College has been great," Monroe said during a recent interview. "This is definitely the most fun I've had my whole life, just being able to grow and meet different people from everywhere. And I still get to do the thing I love -- play basketball at a high level."

As for his on-court skills, Monroe shares the assessment of Coach John Thompson III, who believes his center is "far, far away" from reaching his potential.

Says Monroe, who's averaging 14.9 points and 10.1 rebounds per game: "I definitely think I've made strides on the court and off, but I think I can get a lot better still. There are a lot of things I have to work on, physically and [in terms of] learning more about the game. I don't think I'm close to being as good as I can be."

Should he go pro?

Of course there is no shortage of people eager to convince Monroe he's ready for the pros -- whether Big East rivals eager to see him move on, prospective agents eager for a stake in his riches or NBA coaches eager to bank on his future. And there's no doubt that the chatter will intensify as the college basketball season heats up.

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