North Carolina State guard Rodney Monroe expected to be drafted by either the Atlanta Hawks or Washington Bullets in Wednesday's NBA draft. It's just that he didn't expect to have to wait until the second round -- and for seven other guards to be chosen -- until he went on the 30th pick to the Hawks.
There were the lingering questions among pro scouts about his size and ability to create shots off the dribble, but not since Wake Forest's Charlie Davis in 1971 has the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year slipped below the first round. (Davis went in the eighth round to the Cleveland Cavaliers.)
However, the native of Hagerstown doesn't seem to care much about that. He's in the NBA, and that's all that matters.
"I'm a little disappointed," said Monroe from his parents' home in Hagerstown. "Disappointed and happy at the same time. This is a dream for me to be in the NBA. It's finally reality, so I'm happy that I made it, but I'm disappointed that I wasn't picked until the second round."
Boos echoed at the Capital Centre after the Bullets announced the selection of Louisville guard LaBradford Smith with the 19th pick of the first round. Chants of "Rodney Monroe" had reverberated throughout the building before the Bullets made their pick. Disappointment met Monroe and his following.
"I talked to the Bullets early Tuesday," said Monroe. "They were caught in between me and LaBradford. He was bigger, so I guess they wanted to go with him. Atlanta was very interested in taking me with the 15th pick, but they got me in the second round, so I guess things worked out for them."
But Monroe said playing with the likes of Dominique Wilkins will be an honor. "He's an all-star," he said. "I've been watching him on television for the last couple of years, so it will be fun to play with him and to get to know him."
Though he was bypassed by at least five teams desperate for guard help, Monroe is well-liked around the league. But that he has only 175 pounds on his 6-foot-2 frame probably hurt him.
"I like Rodney Monroe," said Wayne Embry, executive vice president and general manager of the Cavaliers. "He is a very fine basketball player. But as I look at the draft, most of the players picked after the two guards [Georgia Tech's Kenny Anderson to the New Jersey Nets and Michigan State's Steve Smith to the Miami Heat] were big, and teams decided to go for size, with the exception of LaBradford Smith."
Smith is an inch taller and 25 pounds heavier than Monroe, but Monroe played in the ACC, which is traditionally tougher than the Metro Conference, of which Louisville is a member. Monroe scored 2,551 points, 700 more than Smith. But NBA officials apparently were more impressed by an NBA-caliber physique and open-court explosiveness than a reputation for being able to score.
"All the feedback that I heard was with my size," said Monroe. "I was listed at 6-2, 175 pounds. All the guards in that position picked before me were listed at 6-3 1/2 to 6-6, and that was bigger than me. But I feel that I can definitely do the job. Maybe this is going to make me work harder and prove to people that I should have been in the first round."
That's the attitude Denver Nuggets general manager Bernie Bickerstaff likes to hear.
"I think this will give him more incentive," said Bickerstaff, who could have selected Monroe with the eighth pick of the first round, but chose Temple guard Mark Macon instead. "He might say, 'Let's get busy,' and he might prove a lot of people wrong. He shouldn't drop his head. He still has an opportunity that a lot of people don't have."
ACC Players of the Year in the NBA draft since 1971
Year .. Player .. School .. Team (overall pick)
1991 Rodney Monroe North Carolina State No. 2 pick of Hawks (30th)
1990 Dennis Scott Georgia Tech No. 1 pick of Magic (4th)
1989 Danny Ferry Duke No. 1 pick of Clippers (2nd)
1988 Ferry (junior)
1986 Len Bias Maryland No. 1 pick of Celtics (2nd)
1985 Bias (junior)
1984 Michael Jordan North Carolina No. 1 pick of Bulls (3rd)
1983 Ralph Sampson Virginia No. 1 pick of Rockets (1st)
'81-82 Sampson (sophomore and junior)
1980 Albert King, Maryland (sophomore)
1979 Mike Gminski, Duke (junior)
1978 Phil Ford North Carolina No. 1 pick of Kings (1st)
1977 Rod Griffin, Wake Forest, junior
1976 Mitch Kupchak North Carolina No. 1 pick of Bullets (13th)
1975 David Thompson North Carolina State No. 1 pick of Hawks (1st)
'73-74 Thompson (sophomore and junior)
1972 Barry Parkhill, Virginia, junior
1971 Charlie Davis Wake Forest No. 8 pick of Cavaliers (No. 1 pick of ABA's Nets)