An opposing hoops coach had just watched Cabrini’s Tyheim Monroe grab his usual handfuls of rebounds. Rosemont coach Bobby Hughes groans more than most, since Hughes had begun recruiting Monroe early, liking the Olney Charter player but ultimately deciding he already had a terrific 6-foot-1 wing player and getting another would cause a logjam.
Hughes groans because Monroe is not 6-foot-1 anymore. And although he gets out to the wing at times, the Cabrini senior’s usual spot is inside, finding the best possible rebounding position. Once he gets that position, assume he gets the rebound. Now 6-6, or maybe 6-7, Monroe leads NCAA Division III in rebounding for the third straight season, averaging 16.2 a game, along with 22.8 points.
Through the weekend, Monroe had 1,317 career rebounds. Nobody else in Division III had more than 962. Nobody else active in any division has as many as Monroe, who averaged 15.8 rebounds as a junior and 15.3 as a sophomore.
When Cabrini also began recruiting Monroe, he was still a guard.
A rebounding guard? “Not really,’’ Cabrini coach Tim McDonald said. “He was one of those guys we thought would be able to step in as a freshman and play some minutes on the wing for us.”
At the time, McDonald was an assistant. Another assistant was recruiting Monroe. “He was like, ‘Hey, he grew a little bit. He grew from 6-1 to like 6-3.’ I was like, ‘All right, maybe he’ll be a better wing for us.’ ”
When Monroe committed, it was just as McDonald was transitioning from assistant to head coach.
“I had gotten the job in June,’’ McDonald said. “I had him come up just to make sure he was still coming. At that time, he was about 6-4.”
The next year, 6-6.
“There’s a ton of luck involved,’’ McDonald said. “A ton of luck.”
Does it help Monroe’s game that he once was a guard?
“Oh, yeah,’’ McDonald said. “He has a good feel for the game. He just kind of reads where the ball is going and goes and gets it. His body is a lot more mobile than I think a lot of bigs, especially at our level. He’ll deflect it up to himself and get it around somebody. He has really good body control.”
There was one sequence at Rosemont in which Monroe missed two shots and got two extra rebounds out of the deal, eventually scoring. But most of his boards are legitimate.
“He definitely works for them,’’ McDonald said. “The one thing we have to harp on with our team, they’re like, ‘Tyheim’s got it,’ and they start going the other way.”
Tuesday night, Neumann might have come up with the best plan: Get Monroe in foul trouble. A couple of early fouls kept Monroe in foul trouble all night, and although he still got 23 points and 11 rebounds, he sat a few minutes at the end of the first half and had to watch himself around the basket. Neumann won the game, 92-83.
There will be board opportunities because the Colonial States Athletic Conference is good hoops but fast hoops. You need to score to win. More shots typically mean more rebounds. He’s had at least 20 rebounds five times this season, topped by 28 against Centenary.
Was Monroe, who grew up in the Olney section of the city, a rebounder growing up?
“I crashed the boards here and there, but not as much,’’ Monroe said. And the transition from a guard to an inside player “was frustrating, to be honest. Growing up, I was always dribbling the basketball. In middle school, I played point guard.”
He’ll still get his outside shots, which makes him interesting to guard. Monroe put in a lot of past summer work, he said, turning himself into a forward. A lot of endurance work, he said.
Could he have played higher-level basketball if he had grown earlier? Maybe so. But at this level of ball, he’s been special. Late bloomers are a kind of subset of great basketball players. Dennis Rodman, for instance, shot up and turned himself into a top rebounder at the highest level.
Watching Monroe as shooters shoot, it’s hard to tell sometimes if he’s on offense or defense. He’s boxing out, ready to grab another one.
“He’s not cheating,’’ Hughes said of how Monroe gets so many boards, just after he had gotten 17 at Rosemont as Cabrini won by 11. “He’s grinding for them.”