By Mark F. Gray
Just over three years ago it seemed that Camelot had comeback to the Georgetown basketball program. With a trip to the NCAA Final Four and an NBA Lottery pick on the roster in Jeff Green the days of Hoya paranoia seemed ready to make their way back to Chinatown. However, when Greg Monroe made it known that he wasn’t coming back to school for his final two years of eligibility it shook the program like a Big East conference pick.
In the modern era of college basketball pit stops on campus are part of the process that coaches have to deal with. Players are far more sophisticated and make their decisions on where to play for reasons that have more to do with NBA preparation than with getting to a Final Four. Basketball factories such as Kentucky, or anywhere that John Calipari coaches, seem to recruit difference makers who come to school with a “one and done” mindset so they are constantly in transition.
Monroe was the top rated national recruit when Georgetown landed him in 2008. He was supposed to be a cornerstone to another Final Four trip before his departure. However, he didn’t win a single NCAA Tournament game. In fact, after his freshman season the Hoyas weren’t invited to the big dance. Losing in the first round this year certainly made his decision to leave a lot easier.
His departure is a devastating blow to a program whose conference has been victimized by players unexpectedly leaving early. Syracuse was hit by Wesley Johnson’s decision to go pro after they won the Big East regular season title. West Virginia lost Devin Ebanks to the NBA following their run to this year’s Final Four. Neither Johnson nor Ebanks leaves a bare cupboard in central New York or Morgantown, West Virginia. Suddenly, however, the Hoyas are in the mix as hopefuls istead of contenders for the Big East championship next year.
Monroe’s departure is a tremor to Hoya nation and the after shocks figure to reverberate indefinitely. Although Georgetown has sent the most players Big East players to the NBA since John Thompson III took the reigns of the program, transfers and defections threaten the foundation that seemed so stable in 2007.
Once known as “Big Man U” the losses of front court players have left the Hoyas thin in the paint for the last two years. The absences Vernon Macklin and Dejuan Summers were felt last year as Georgetown struggled against teams who had size and depth inside. Monroe is in better position to turn pro than Summers was last year and make impact in the NBA but there is no legitimate presence on the baseline as they try and return to the NCAA Tournament in 2011.
These days, however, players are more savvy and the elite players around the country talk regularly. Three years ago Georgetown was in the conversation about places they could attend and have a chance at going to the Final Four. Now they will text message or socially network with skepticism about whether becoming a Hoya means you can’t win in the NCAA Tournament.