Big man Greg Monroe takes the big stage for Georgetown: the NCAA tournament
Thursday, March 18, 2010
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Greg Monroe has started 64 consecutive games for Georgetown. In that span, he has been named Big East freshman of the year, earned all-Big East first-team honors as a sophomore and gone a long way toward establishing himself as the next towering figure in a line of distinguished Hoyas centers.
But Monroe has yet to compete in an NCAA tournament.
How he adapts to college basketball's biggest stage when the tournament tips off in earnest Thursday likely will determine how far this promising Georgetown squad goes.
As the No. 3 seed in the NCAA's stacked Midwest Region, Georgetown (23-10) opens play Thursday in Providence against the 14th-seeded Ohio University Bobcats (21-14), the Mid-American Conference tournament's upstart champions.
When last seen at this city's Dunkin' Donuts Center on Feb. 9, Monroe was shattering a Big East record -- and yet another "big man" stereotype in the process -- by dishing out 12 assists in Georgetown's 79-70 victory over conference rival Providence. Before that, no center in league history had managed double-digit assists in a Big East game.
It is the paradox of the 6-foot-11, 247-pound Monroe, whose rare combination of skill, instincts and vision makes NBA scouts swoon and opposing coaches blanch.
Monroe is the star player who never seems happier than when his teammates seize the spotlight.
His spontaneous on-court applause when a fellow Hoya makes a great play is one measure. The fact that he's second on the team in assists by a considerable margin (with 122, behind only Chris Wright's 135) is another.
"What makes him special is he's such a gifted passer," Ohio Coach John Groce said Wednesday. "He makes guys around him better."
During a broadcast of a regular season Georgetown game earlier this year, ESPN analyst Len Elmore tried to break down exactly what makes a great passer to provide context for analyzing Monroe's game.
Reached Wednesday, Elmore said he felt that Monroe had only gotten better since, with his passing ability the characteristic that sets him apart from college basketball's other heralded big men.
"It's the anticipation to see the play before it happens," Elmore said, enumerating the hallmarks of a great passer. "Obviously hand-eye coordination, which he certainly has. And the willingness to give up the ball even though you think you have a shot, which is so important. But most important is the right pass at the right time."