Thursday, September 20, 2007

UConn's Monroe Doctrine

By David Borges
Register staff
University of Connecticut men’s basketball coach Jim Calhoun will fly down to Gretna, La., this weekend to make his pitch to the top-rated high school basketball player in the country. At this point, it appears the Huskies are right in the mix to land him.

Greg Monroe is a 6-foot-10 senior forward out of Helen Cox High who is as skilled at ballhandling and passing as he is at rebounding and blocking shots. And he may be an even better person off the court, according to his high school coach, Tyrone Mouzon, who also serves as the school’s disciplinarian. Suffice to say, Mouzon hasn’t had Monroe in his office very often over the past few years.

“He’s a very special kid, and I don’t say this because I’m his basketball coach,” Mouzon said. “He doesn’t need anything extra from me. I hate to use the word ‘throwback,’ but he has a quiet demeanor, goes about his business and he’s an outstanding student in the classroom. He’s the whole package.”

In fact, Mouzon likens Monroe to a “Tim Duncan type of person.” So what are the odds of Calhoun landing this prized package?

“He’s always expressed an interest in UConn,” Mouzon said. “He knows they’ve developed a lot of big men who went on to the pros. And they’ve been pretty successful, obviously. Winning is important to him. They won two national titles in a short period of time, so he likes that part about it.”

Indeed, according to Mouzon, Monroe only intends to stay in college for no more than two years.

“He doesn’t want to stay in college long,” the coach said. “He wants someone to work hard with him, make him better, make him a lottery pick in the draft. He’s looking to compete for championships. He said distance (from home) is not a factor. He’s looking for a stable coach, a good academic institution that will develop him, push him and make him as good as he can be.”

Calhoun’s visit on Saturday afternoon will be one of eight made to Monroe’s home by some of the top programs in the nation, beginning with Duke back on Sept. 9 and ending next Tuesday with Texas. (Georgetown, LSU, USC, Baylor and Kansas are the others). After the Texas visit, Monroe (who just turned 17 in June), his mother, Wilma, and two uncles (one of whom, Norman Dixon, played football at BYU in the 1980s) will narrow down the list of schools to which he’ll make official visits.

“I think everybody has a fair shot,” Mouzon said. “I know early on, as a younger kid, he was always a big Duke fan. But I don’t think that necessarily means they’re the leader at this time. If you asked me (who’s the favorite) a year or two ago, I’d say Duke. But I think now he’s really pretty even. If I had to guess, he has three or four schools probably tied, in his mind.”

David Borges may be reached at dborges@nhregister.com

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