You could be forgiven for thinking Greg Monroe never declared for the NBA Draft, was never picked by the Detroit Pistons, and never became a multi-millionaire professional basketball player. After all, if he did all that, why would he hang around at Club Lau?
The big man has been around campus plenty since the end of last semester, backing up all the reports about how much he loved college we heard over the past two years. Unfortunately for Hoya fans, he realized he could play pro ball and still find some time to hang out on the Hilltop.
But on Tuesday, as every one of his teammates from last season prepared for Midnight Madness, it has become impossible to ignore the fact that Greg Monroe is a professional basketball player. Specifically, it happened when LeBron James swatted his last-second, three-point attempt at the end of the first quarter.
Monroe’s played on a big stage many times before, obviously, in front of 30,000 Syracuse fans in the Carrier Dome or at a sold-out Madison Square Garden in the Big East Tournament. But posting up Arinze Onuaku or a Plumlee brother isn’t quite the same as trying to score on Chris Bosh.
That’s the task Monroe briefly faced in the first quarter of Tuesday’s game, and it didn’t go great. Monroe didn’t embarrass himself—there’s a reason he was drafted seventh overall—but it didn’t look like Monroe brought much of his talent to South Beach during his initial foray on the court. Checking in with four minutes to go in the first quarter, he was gone eight minutes later, with zero points but four personal fouls.
It was a stark reminder that as much Monroe could have dominated in the Big East this season, he’ll probably be little more than a role player this year in the NBA. That isn’t a reflection on Monroe’s talent or decision—he’s more than good enough for the pros, and probably wasn’t going to get much better in college—but it reminds us that people who are paid millions upon millions of dollars to play basketball are ridiculously good.
But as much as Hoya fans, myself included, may wish Monroe had taken the easy way out and come back to school, the NBA is going to be a much more rewarding experience for him—and, in all likelihood, for us. For better or worse, everyone knew what Greg Monroe the college player could do. There are a lot more questions for him in Detroit, and if he can answer them all, it will be a lot of fun for those of us who were following him from the beginning.
Monroe faced his first real test Tuesday night, and he responded well after the initial adversity. Checking back in during the second half, Monroe looked a little more like his old self, working inside with his left hand to put up 10 points and dishing out a few of the trademark passes that made him such a highly-touted prospect.
Of course, that performance came against the likes of Shavlik Randolph, not Bosh. And it was a meaningless preseason game. Nevertheless, it was the start of a career that hopefully will be many times longer than his one on the Hilltop. It may be strange to think of Monroe spending more time wearing blue and red than blue and gray, but that day is all but guaranteed to come. The time has come to let Monroe the Hoya go. Because like Jeff Green, Roy Hibbert, and all the others before him, there is still plenty of basketball left for us to get from him.