In nearly four years, 2,186 points have earned Chris Monroe a lot. He’s gained the respect of opponents, teammates and coaches alike. He’s amassed a trophy case worth of individual awards and is the most well-known GW athlete of his time – look no further than his No. 4 jersey on sale at the GW Bookstore. And as the senior enters his final game at the Smith Center Saturday, 40 more points will cement his place in the University’s history.
That’s how far Monroe is from breaking GW’s all-time scoring record of 2,226 points, set by Joe Holup in 1956. Monroe, whose career high is 35 points, will probably have to wait until next week’s Atlantic 10 Tournament to come within reach of the milestone. But while Monroe may not put his name into the record books Saturday, he has already established himself as the face of GW basketball at the start of the century, a face that fans will get to see on the Tex Silverman Court one last time.
“It’s going to hurt,” Monroe said of his last Smith Center game, shaking his head. “It’s going to hurt.”
Before the game, which starts at 2 p.m. against Fordham, the shooting guard will be honored in a brief ceremony and will be presented with a framed jersey. But once the ball is in the air, expect Monroe to be all business, as the Colonials need to win to clinch the fifth seed in their division heading into the A-10 Tournament.
“Xavier is the 13th-ranked team in the country and we took them right down to the wire, and that just shows that I have a team with young guys that can play anybody,” he said. “So I still have a lot of hope in the A-10 Tournament.”
Hope, of course, is nothing new to Monroe, whose team has not finished with a winning record in any of his first three seasons and is currently just 10-16, barely out of last place in the A-10 West. Each year, Monroe has had to hope for GW to pull off an upset in the conference tournament for it to move on to the Big Dance, and each year the Colonials have come up short.
In fact, the disparity between Monroe’s individual achievements and his team’s success is almost unparalleled. Despite his assault on the scoring record and longstanding reputation as one of the A-10’s best players, if the Colonials do not advance to the NCAA Tournament this year, Monroe will be the first GW player since the class of 1990 to graduate without at least one postseason appearance.
It is for this reason that Monroe said his legacy would be tainted.
“If I come back 10 years from now, none of the student body will remember who I was,” he said. “Like if you asked some of the student body if they remember who (former GW standout) Shawnta (Rogers) was, they’d be like, ‘The little point guard, right?’ For me, they’ll probably be like ‘Oh, yeah, the bald-headed guy.'”
Rogers graduated in 1999 as GW’s fifth all-time leading scorer (now sixth, thanks to Monroe) and reached either the NCAA Tournament or the National Invitation Tournament all four years of his career, a feat which Monroe said made Rogers the better player.
“Shawnta never scored as many points as me, but Shawnta won,” Monroe said. “Whenever I think back on it, if I don’t get to the NCAA Tournament, it’s going to hurt. I’ve spent four years here and I’ve done a lot of other things, but I haven’t gotten to my main goal.”
While losing has been a constant source of disappointment during his career, Monroe said his relationships with his teammates have allowed him to enjoy his time as a Colonial.
“The losing part isn’t fun, but the people around me have made it fun,” Monroe said. “I’m supposed to be the vet here, but they keep me laughing the whole time. So instead of getting down on myself, guys like T.J. (Thompson) give me a lot of great memories. Every year, every game is something special to remember.”
And, according to Thompson, who was practicing in the Smith Center sporting Monroe’s No. 4 practice jersey in his honor, the “vet” has returned the favor.
Monroe is admittedly more of a lead-by-example type than an outgoing presence in the locker room, but junior Greg Collucci said Monroe’s actions have always been enough.
“He doesn’t have to talk a lot, he’s always here (in the gym),” Collucci said of his teammate. “And when your leader is here, you feel like you have to be here.”
Following up on a goal he set for himself at the beginning of the year, Monroe has changed somewhat with regard to his social interaction with teammates and students in particular, responding to his popularity by running up in the bleachers to celebrate with students after several GW home wins.
“My personality is not really formatted to walk up to somebody I don’t know and say ‘hi,’ but I want the crowd to know that I appreciate them and that I recognize them,” Monroe said. “I don’t want them thinking I’m just some guy who plays ball and doesn’t talk to anybody.”
Based on the standing ovation Monroe received when he scored his 2,000th career point at the Smith Center Jan. 25, Colonials fans probably wouldn’t mind their last celebration with Monroe being his ascension to the school’s all-time leading scorer, but the milestone is by no means a given.
Scoring 40 points against the worst team in the A-10 is not outside the realm of possibility, but is unlikely, especially given that Monroe is averaging less than 16 points per game over GW’s last three outings.
“It would be great,” Monroe said of breaking the record. “Joe Holup was a great player. If I get it, it will be an honor.”
Monroe has downplayed the scoring record most of the season, though, ever conscious of what other people think about his motives.
“A lot of things have been misperceived,” he said. “I don’t want people to think my goal is to break the school record and it’s not about the team.”
GW Head Coach Karl Hobbs said he hopes Monroe breaks the record but said that the Colonials are focused on one thing – winning, which he also noted will increase Monroe’s chances of breaking the record. If GW loses in the first round of the A-10 Tournament, Monroe will have only two more games left, but his career will go on for as many games as GW wins.
When his career does come to an end, Monroe said he will enter the NBA Draft in June. However, he added, he expects to face an uphill battle because of his lack of wins and national exposure at GW.
“If you go to a store, you see a candy bar advertised on commercials all the time, and then you got this no name candy bar you heard is good,” he said. “You only got sixty cents and you’re hungry as hell – you’re going to pick the one you see and hear about all the time.”
After basketball, the sociology major said he plans to attend graduate school but emphasized he still wants to leave his mark at GW by taking the Colonials to the postseason before he leaves.
“I know I didn’t win, and that’s going to hurt what people say about me,” he said. “I just want them to say, ‘Chris Monroe, he’s one of the best players to ever play here.'”