"Greg Monroe is one of the most talented players in the country."
Pretty tough to argue with that statement, isn't it? I mean, we are talking about a kid that is 6'11", left-handed, and an excellent passer with a solid jumper and a developing post game. That sentence alone is probably enough to get a player drafted.
But what if I were to say this:
"Greg Monroe is one of the best players in the country."
Up until last night, I would have argued that point feverishly.
Living in DC, I've seen Monroe play enough over the last year and change to be able to break down his game pretty effectively. He relies a little too much on his left (dominant) hand, especially when finishing a drive. His strength and athleticism can stand to be improved. He has god-given potential for days, but he needs to improve his back-to-the-basket game, adding more advanced moves and counter moves.
But he's 19.
What 19 year old is a finished product?
Not too many.
If Monroe keeps working hard, there is no reason he can't live up to that potential.
This issue with Monroe has always been his aggressiveness. His assertiveness. For all that potential, it was rare to see the big fella take a game over.
He did last night.
Monroe scored 25 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, shut down Matt Howard defensively, and, perhaps most importantly, took 20 shots from the floor, a career high.
"[Monroe] was playing with a real authoritative spirit," Butler head coach Brad Stevens said after the game. "He's a tough guy to guard."
Part of what makes Monroe's aggressiveness so important is his ability to pass. You want opponents to be forced to double team Monroe on the block. At 6'11", he can see over the defense and will find the open shooter or the cutter. The Hoyas have a savvy, unselfish basketball team that knows how to move the ball. If Monroe gets doubled and kicks the ball out, odds are good Georgetown is going to end up with a high percentage shot.
"Greg is an unselfish player," coach John Thompson III said after the game. "We have an unselfish team. We have a lot of people in that locker room that can score. The number of shots one takes is not important to this group. It is how we play and if it is the right shots and if we get victories. That is what important."
It is more than just scoring, however.
The Hoyas last season really struggled on the glass, especially at the defensive end. Butler is not a big team by any stretch of the imagination, but Georgetown dominated the boards last night, finished with a 43-30 rebounding and 12 offensive rebounds.
Monroe was also the biggest reason that Howard struggled so much. It was obvious watching the game that the reigning Horizon player of the year was cognizant of Monroe's presence as a shot blocker. He missed his first eight shots, the majority of which came right at the rim.
With as well as Monroe played, it is clear there is still room for improvement. He only made 9-20 shots, missing a number of easy lay-ups.
"If you had told me he was 9-for-20," Stevens said, "and he shot ten free throws and he ended up with 24 points, I would have said that's not all bad against us."
That will come with time. Monroe is still learning how to score in the post and how to handle being a guy that Georgetown needs to post a double-double every night.
But if you can go for 24 and 15, and people are saying you still have a great deal of room for improvement, what happens when you reach that threshold?
Only time will tell.
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