Greg Monroe took a wrong turn this summer
By Mike DeCourcy - SportingNews
Somewhere in the course of a short 12 months, Louisiana prep basketball prospect Greg Monroe forgot about working to become the next Dwight Howard and decided he could be the next Josh Howard.
Where he got that idea is anyone's guess.
Why he'd think that would be a good idea is a mystery.
This explains a lot, though. A college coach who has been working the recruiting circuit offered this -- the effort to convert Monroe to small forward rather than perfect his power forward skills -- as an explanation for Monroe delivering as disappointing a summer as any elite prospect in recent memory.
This is not uncommon in the current climate. Playing inside is hard enough work that many big men open themselves to suggestions from friends, family members and, occasionally, coaches, that they could be more successful operating on the perimeter. The sight of a Kevin Durant nailing 3-point jumpshots is more seductive than the picture of Tyler Hansbrough getting his nose broken beneath the goal.
The colleges recruiting Monroe -- including, but not limited to, LSU, Duke, Kansas, Baylor and Texas -- still want him very much. Whichever one gets him, though, will not be restricted to playing him on the perimeter. Their coaches are professionals. Howard will be a power forward again the minute he signs a letter of intent.
This summer, though, he blew an important step on the way to becoming a great power forward. When he should have been developing post moves and rebounding technique, both of these being weak areas for such a promising big man, Nike had Monroe at its Vince Carter camp for elite high school wing players. According to some reports, Monroe struggled to fit in with the best at those positions.
When he should have been working in the lane to dominate the competing big men at Nike's LeBron James Skills Academy, he was floating around on the perimeter appearing out of place and ineffectual.
Monroe, who is 6-10, 220 pounds and attends Helen Cox High in Harvey, La., has a broad set of shoulders and serious athleticism. What he does not have at this point in his development is any consistent means of getting the ball in the basket. He can take the ball off the boards and dribble into an open court, and he's a capable passer. But Monroe is not a jumpshooter by any means and not quick enough to drive the ball past prominent wings. That's why playing him outside is of little use.
"As a 4, he can handle the ball pretty well," said recruiting analyst Evan Daniels of Scout.com. "But he's not a 3."
A wasted summer is not without consequence. Not that it's going to affect his career in any appreciable way, but many analysts, save for Scout.com's Dave Telep, demoted Monroe from the No. 1 ranking in his class. More important, it can affect how the scouts whose decisions translate into dollars -- those in the NBA -- ultimately view him.
Consider the case of Charlie Villanueva. After loafing his way through the summer of 2002, Villanueva wound up needing to spend two years at Connecticut to get himself into the NBA draft, and he'd already created so much doubt about his commitment level that the Toronto Raptors initially were blasted for selecting him at No. 7 overall.
The most curious aspect regarding the lust of so many post players for the supposedly easy life on the perimeter is that the big guys always make the big money. Even marginal bigs have attracted huge NBA contracts. Washington's Etan Thomas is slated to make $20.6 million over the next three years. He averaged 6.1 points and 5.8 rebounds last season.
Hoopmasters.com analyst Van Coleman sees this and can't figure out why Monroe and those around him cannot. "I think he can become a dominant 4, but there are still skills to be learned," Coleman said. "Use your athleticism to make you a dominant force. That's the key thing in all of this."