- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 27, 2008

ORLANDO, Fla. | It has been a long time since a freshman landed on the Hilltop with the basketball polish exhibited by Georgetown’s “Big Easy.”

In just two games, Greg Monroe has established himself as the Hoyas’ focal point on both ends of the floor, averaging 17.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 3.0 blocks and 1.5 steals in a pair of comfortable victories. That stat-stuffing start, albeit against soft competition, ranks among the best in Georgetown history.

Over the next four days against a loaded field at the Old Spice Classic, the 6-foot-11, 250-pound center and the 21st-ranked Hoyas (2-0) should get an early look at how they measure up against some of the nation’s elite teams.

“The kid is good,” senior guard Jessie Sapp said. “And this is just the beginning. He’s only going to get better. I think [playing in this type] of event is going to be good. Throw us all in the ocean, especially these freshmen, and see how we react. Get everything out in the open, so we see where we stand and we’ve seen and experienced everything as a group before Big East play begins.”

When Monroe signed with the Hoyas out of Helen Cox High School in Gretna, La., coach John Thompson III knew he was getting a major talent. At the time of his oral commitment a little more than a year ago, Monroe was the top-ranked prep player in his class. But his modest senior season and a series of erratic performances in the top high school all-star games prompted recruiting analysts to question his passion and drop him in their rankings.

“Monroe isn’t a real showy player who demands the ball and wants to rack up individual accolades, so the all-star circuit clearly wasn’t his thing,” PrepStars recruiting analyst Rob Harrington said. “I think he could really be special in a system like Georgetown’s that will allow really showcase his all-around skills as the consummate team player.”

That’s what has happened in Georgetown’s first two games. Though his performances came against undersized squads from Jacksonville and Drexel, Monroe’s maturity and versatility have dazzled fans, teammates, opposing coaches and NBA scouts.

“It does look like he has the chance to be special because he is very advanced for a freshman, no doubt,” said former Georgetown forward Godwin Owinje, who runs the D.C.-based player scouting firm Radar Hoops. “But it’s hard to evaluate him until we see what he does against serious competition.”

Monroe’s production in his first two games ranks ahead of those authored by former pivot greats Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mourning. But comparisons to that pair or virtually any of Georgetown’s past post icons don’t do justice to any of the concerned parties. Though offensively raw as a freshman and beyond, Ewing was an athletic anomaly for his size and a defensive dynamo. Mourning was similarly daunting on defense and an offensive force on the low blocks. A decade later, Mike Sweetney stepped onto the floor as a freshman with soft hands and a refined post game.

Monroe doesn’t have Ewing’s athleticism, Mourning’s physical presence or Sweetney’s offensive prowess in the paint. But his court savvy and diverse skill set make him a more complete player as a freshman than any of the three.

Most impressively for a freshman, Monroe has committed just two turnovers in 59 minutes of playing time. He hasn’t yet attempted a shot from more than eight feet, though his proficiency from the foul line (7-for-8) suggests he might also have a midrange jumper in his arsenal.

“Relative to most incoming freshmen, he’s had two pretty good games,” Thompson said. “He’s still got a long way to go, but he’s going to get there. His instincts coupled with his intelligence coupled with his understanding are exceptional. He doesn’t make the same mistake twice. You tell him something, and you can see that he gets it and incorporates it instantly. That’s a gift. He learns. He understands what we’re doing. He understands the best way to facilitate that and make that happen relative to himself and his teammates.”



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