THE LINEAGE of centers under former Georgetown coach John Thompson reads like an Old Testament genealogy—Patrick, who begat Alonzo, who begat Dikembe, who begat Othella. But to hear John Thompson III, the current Hoyas coach, tell it, Greg Monroe shall be a big man all his own. Just days after the pro jersey of Pacers first-round pick Roy Hibbert was raised to the back wall of McDonough Arena alongside those of other alumni gone on to the NBA, the Hoyas' coach defused any comparisons between the 6'11" freshman and his immediate predecessor. Said Thompson, "Greg and Roy are extremely different in every single manner."
The key difference is Monroe's versatility. While the lefty from Helen Cox High (La.) exhibits the defensive instincts of his forebears, he was highly regarded as a recruit because of his ability to play all over the floor on offense. He fires easily from mid-range, and though 250 pounds, he has the speed and handle to lead a fast break. "And he's really a terrific passer," adds JTIII. "He has a good feel for the game."
On the defensive end the Hoyas can only hope Monroe will control the paint like Hibbert, who led the team in rebounding and blocks as the Hoyas had the nation's No. 1 field goal defense in 2007--08, holding opponents to 36.6% shooting from the floor. But at the other end of the floor the Hoyas will be looking for a new, faster identity. Sophomore Chris Wright, described by teammate Jessie Sapp as "more of a point guard" than graduated senior Jonathan Wallace, takes charge of Thompson's Princeton-style offense. With him and Monroe on the court, the Hoyas are expecting to have a more athletic attack than the one that was outgunned by Davidson in the second round of the NCAA tournament last year. "We did way more conditioning over the summer than last season," says junior forward DaJuan Summers. "There was a painful feeling on our campus for a long time after [that loss]."
Summers, who averaged 11.1 points in '07--08, is the best bet to pick up the bulk of the scoring load. Monroe and fellow freshman center Henry Sims, another top 50 recruit, will be counted on to contribute right away too. "What we don't have is the luxury of time," Thompson says. "The freshmen are going to be thrown in from the get-go." Like his father, Thompson doesn't allow freshmen to talk to the media, but the newest matriculant at Big Man U already has his teammates singing his praises. As Sapp says, "Roy? We love that guy. But now we got Greg."
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*HIGH SCHOOL STATS
?WITH FLORIDA STATE
Nov. 27--28, 30