Pistons' rookie Monroe is growing up fast

BY foxsports • February 9, 2011

Feb. 9, 2011

Sometimes the thought crosses Greg Monroe's mind What would his life be like right now if he still was in college?

He'd probably be trudging through the snow and cold of Washington D.C., trying to get to his classes at Georgetown University. Or he'd be at basketball practice, working on his game with the Hoyas teammates.

But that world, familiar enough to still be vivid in Monroe's mind, is gone forever.

He made a choice, taking a chance to jump to the NBA after two years of college, and isn't looking back.

Monroe, a power forward, says he's found a home and a good place to work, with the Detroit Pistons.

"Coming to the NBA has been a big step for me, probably one of the biggest I've taken in my life so far," Monroe, 20, said. "My life, from last year to this year, is totally different. I'm not in school, I'm not studying, I'm not playing college basketball anymore.

"Sometimes, I do miss that a little, especially my friends. I'm really happy here, too, though. It's been a good experience so far."

He's hitting his stride as a rookie, averaging 10.9 points and 8.9 rebounds during January, a near doubling of his numbers over the first two months of the season. He's cracking the starting lineup, with coach John Kuester liking his energy and presence down low.

And Monroe has been named to the rookie team for the upcoming Rookie/Sophomore Challenge game, which is part of All-Star weekend.

"I was really surprised by that," Monroe said. That was really great to hear people think I belong in that group.

"My mom (Norma) and sister (Brittany) and friends are coming to L.A. to see me play. It's going to be really fun to be part of that and share it with them."

Monroe is navigating his new professional life with the same things that got him to this point: a strong sense of gratefulness, a willingness to listen and working hard.

Monroe and his family survived Hurricane Katrina in 2005 by fleeing New Orleans for Houston for a month. He was only a high school sophomore, but quickly learned the real lessons of life and death.

He was lucky. His mom's house in Harvey, La., was fine, and his family suffered no losses.

But the scary experience has taught him perspective that serves him well today.

"There were kids who were evacuated who didn't know where their moms or dads were," Monroe said. "There were people who came home to nothing. Those are terrible things that happened to people who did nothing to deserve that.

"I have always counted my blessings because I have always had a home, food, my mom, my sister, my family and the things we needed. I didn't have as much as some, but I had enough. And I always remember that. Always."

Being a rookie in the NBA can be an intense and bewildering experience. Monroe is the youngest Pistons player, essentially a college junior now living in a world of NBA veterans. His co-workers are in different phases of life, up to 16 years older, and married with kids.

"I have to give them all credit, really, because they have made me feel welcome from day one," Monroe said. "Everybody on this team has gone out of their way to make me feel like I am part of things.

"And we do stuff together, like go bowling or hang out, when we're not playing. So that's really good. I've gotten to know these guys as people."

Monroe now realizes a lot goes into a successful NBA career: adjusting to life on the road, taking care of your body, handling your own finances and household, plus the demands of the public.

Having nearly a handful of older "brothers" at your workplace is proving to be a strong asset for Monroe. And his mom and sister are still only a phone call away for help and advice, too.

He's young enough that he can't legally buy a drink yet, but already has a degree of maturity to realize there is a lot to learn. He's doing an unofficial apprenticeship with Pistons veteran center Ben Wallace, talking about the game, life, and absorbing as much as he can.

"I know, it takes time to learn the NBA game," said Wallace, who has been in the NBA since Monroe was 6 years old. "He's getting what he deserves. When you talk to him, he gets it. He understands and then goes out there and does it."

Monroe wants to have a long, successful career and sees Wallace as a great role model.

"He's done it all," Monroe said. "He's won a championship, the best defensive player in the game.

"If Ben's kind enough to want to help me, then I'd be crazy not to accept. I've had a lot of great people look out for me: my mom, my teachers, my coaches, and now I get to have somebody like Ben do it too."

Monroe shows his thankfulness in different ways. He smiles when he accidentally calls Wallace "old." That's coming from a young guy giving an old guy some loving grief.

He's promised to go back to school and finish his degree. He's paid off his mom's mortgage and bought his sister a car. Monroe asked his mom if she wanted a new house, but she said no.

The home she kept by working two jobs to support her family was still more than fine.

"I think that's how I'm going to be, too, with all of this," Monroe said. "I'm happy with what I have and who I am.

"I've been really lucky so far."

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