After 2,408, Monroe hasn't proven NBA point

Ken ROSENTHAL

February 27, 1991|By Ken Rosenthal

He has proven everything. He has proven nothing.

Rodney Monroe could score 50 points against Maryland tonight in Raleigh and the NBA scouts wouldn't even flinch. They'd rather see him dribble through a press. Make a pinpoint entry pass. Defend like a man possessed.

As far as Monroe's NBA career is concerned, the past means little now, and the present is but a prelude. The scouts know he can score -- from anywhere, over anyone, at will. But that's one dimension. The NBA plays in 3-D.

Funny how only yesterday Monroe was running downcourt at the Baltimore Arena, lofting his remarkable 68-foot shot to give St. Maria Goretti of Hagerstown its 73-72 victory over unbeaten Lake Clifton in the 1987 Metro Classic.

After tonight, the 6-foot-3, 181-pound shooting guard has only one regular-season game remaining at North Carolina State. Then comes his final ACC tournament. Then the NCAAs.

As meaningful as those games might seem, their significance to Monroe's NBA future is minuscule compared with a series of scrimmages he will play in pre-draft events, starting in Orlando April 11-13.

Washington Bullets general manager John Nash views Monroe as a certain first-round pick, but says his draft position -- and future bargaining power -- will be partly determined by his performance at the tryout camps.

"They're very important for a player like Rodney Monroe," Nash says. "The questions about him are related to his size and his ability to play defense. And about whether he handles the ball well enough to convert, over time, to playing the point.

"If he can, he'll be what we call a 'third' guard -- capable of playing either position the way the Pistons' guards, Joe Dumars and Vinnie Johnson, do. Then he'd become all the more valuable.

"Right now people view him as a major-league shooter," Nash concludes. "But there are questions about other parts of his game."

These questions aren't unusual for college stars entering the NBA; even lottery picks face them. But the pre-draft combines often provide the first glimpse into a player's future. So, before Monroe's friends can even say, "great career," he'll be off to Orlando.

Thirty-six top college seniors -- including Monroe's teammate, Chris Corchiani -- will participate in the Orlando Classic. They'll be divided into four teams, and under the direction of college coaches, they'll practice and perform in front of NBA people for three days.

It's a big-time atmosphere -- the gym is the Orlando Arena, home of the Magic -- yet it's only one step. The first pre-draft event, in Portsmouth, Va., begins just two days after the Final Four. The last, in Chicago June 5-9, leads directly to the draft June 26.

How significant are the camps? Chicago's Scottie Pippen went from an unknown coming out of Central Arkansas to the fifth player taken in 1987. Phoenix's Tim Perry went from a mid-to-late first-round projection coming out of Temple to the seventh player taken in 1988.

Monroe's problem is his size: "He has to prove he's big enough and strong enough to be a two [shooting] guard," Orlando general manager Pat Williams says. "Every night he'll be matching up against Michael Jordan, Clyde Drexler, that ilk of player."

Jordan is 6-6, Drexler 6-7 -- and no one confuses either with Matt Roe. Monroe would match up better against NBA point guards, but then he'd be out of position offensively. "He's not a point guard," NBA superscout Marty Blake insists. "He can't handle the ball that well against pressure."

Talk to enough people, and after a while it sounds like Monroe can't do anything -- a ludicrous notion if there ever was one. But Orlando's Williams immediately points out he's an NBA player, and the undeniable truth is that few collegians can score like Rodney Monroe.

This is a guy who exceeded his season average (27.7) in one half Saturday, exploding for 30 points in the final 20 minutes as N.C. State rallied from a 20-point deficit to defeat Virginia 83-76.

Monroe already has broken David Thompson's career scoring record at N.C. State, and his current point total (2,408) ranks third on the all-time ACC list behind Wake Forest's Dickie Hemric and Duke's Johnny Dawkins.

He shoots before anyone knows he has the ball. He suckers defenders a dozen different ways. He is adept at using screens. "When you've got a reputation as a scorer, you've got to create openings," Maryland coach Gary Williams says. "He does that."

He has proven everything. He has proven nothing.

The NBA waits.

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