By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 22, 2010; D01
"I told him I wasn't ready. I knew I wasn't ready mentally to make that step," Monroe said at a Sheraton ballroom, after completing individual drills at the NBA draft combine. "This year, I didn't have that feeling."
Monroe believes he matured considerably with an extra year in college, and quickly learned that the league was more than willing to wait for his arrival, with the 6-foot-11 left-handed big man slated to go anywhere from No. 5 to No. 11 in the June 24th NBA draft. He met with executives from several teams over the past few days here and admits that he was a little nervous when he sat down to talk with Indiana Pacers President Larry Bird, a Hall of Fame forward, on Thursday night.
"He's one of the top 10 players ever. To have him tell you about your game and he's interested in you playing for him, it was definitely an awe moment for me," Monroe said. "To go from one room with Joe Dumars [president of the Detroit Pistons and a Hall of Fame guard] , five minutes later in the room with [Utah Jazz Hall of Fame Coach] Jerry Sloan and then you're in the room with Larry Bird. It's kind of surreal. But it's fun."
Maryland senior point guard Greivis Vasquez had a much different experience than Monroe, since he worked out for NBA executives and coaches on Thursday and caught a flight back to College Park, where he graduated with a degree in American studies on Friday. Vasquez participated in the combine last season before deciding to go back for his senior season, but he couldn't pass up on an opportunity to walk with his class.
"That's another reason I went back," said Vasquez, a native of Venezuela. "That's an important accomplishment for me and my family. Now my whole country is involved in the whole NBA process -- all 24 million people -- and it's going to be even more impressive getting my degree."
Vasquez planned to return for the final day of activities on Saturday, but said he has already been assured that he will be drafted. Most mock drafts have him going in the second round, but Vasquez believes that any team would benefit from his experience of playing four years in college and with his national team.
"Look at the NBA, who's winning right now? The teams with the most experience," he said. "I'm just hoping I get with the right team and the right situation. I just want my chance. I know I'm a role player and eventually, I will become a good player in the league and be a starting point guard. I'm not trying to be a superstar like I was at Maryland."
Sylven Landesberg's decision to leave Virginia after just two seasons surprised many, but he said he doesn't regret his decision. The 6-6 shooting guard has already worked out with Detroit and Indiana and expects to go late in the first round or early in the second round. "I felt like I was ready. I feel like I've proven myself," Landesberg said. "If I don't go in the first round, I'm still going to get an opportunity to be on a team, and a team will see that they made a great decision and see what I'm capable of."
Larry Sanders, a 6-10 junior forward from Virginia Commonwealth, is considered a late bloomer after not playing organized basketball until he was a junior in high school. He is slated to go anywhere from 14th to 25th. "But in my mind, I'm not going to get picked," Sanders said. "That's how I like to look at it. It makes me want to work harder and go at every day and feel like I have something to prove every day. I don't want to get comfortable."
Monroe said that he has tried to forget about Georgetown's upset loss to Ohio in the first round of the NCAA tournament, but he scoffed at criticism that he didn't show enough of his talents in his two years in Washington.
"What you saw is basically what you're going to get out of me. I'm certainly going to get better at a lot of things and everything, but I'm not here to suit the people that are writing. I'm here to do what I can do to help teams win," said Monroe, adding that he understands the legacy of Georgetown big men, with Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo. "I'm trying to do what they did. Big Pat. Alonzo. Dikembe. They all had wonderful careers. Very successful and they are known for things off the court, just as much as they are on the court. If I can make an impact like they did, that would be big."