The Daily Pennsylvanian asked Penn men's basketball's Lucas Monroe 15 questions about his sport, his time at Penn, and his life overall. Here's what the sophomore had to say.
1. Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Lucas Monroe. I’m from right outside of Philadelphia — Abington, Pa. — just a little suburb outside of Philly. I’m Class of 2023, so I’m a sophomore, and I’m studying Communication in the College.
2. What were you up to this summer?
I didn’t really go anywhere. I pretty much just hung at home, lifted weights, played basketball, hung out with a few friends, and that’s pretty much it. It was pretty much all just working out and just hanging around. I worked a little bit, just doing some landscaping, stuff like that, just for some money on the side. But yeah, I didn’t really do too much besides work out, honestly.
3. What has the team been doing to stay connected?
At the beginning, right when everyone got home from school, we were having a lot of meetings just to kind of see each other face-to-face a little bit. And then it was kind of slowed up a little bit, but we were still doing them, just less frequently. Now, there’s only a few guys on campus — I want to say seven or eight of us maybe on campus — and we don’t have access to the facilities at Penn yet, so we’ve kind of been driving around the city going to play pickup. We just got back actually from the 76ers Fieldhouse. We were playing pick up there, playing against pro dudes, some other college guys.
We’ve been going out to a gym to lift weights. We’ve been doing a yoga class together. So it’s about five or six of us that have kind of been hanging around each other, just doing all that just to stay in shape. And we still have virtual workouts as a team. They’re open to the public, but it’s mostly just guys on the team, and we still are obviously doing meetings, like positional meetings where the bigs will go on with the coaches, go over film. We have guard meetings where we do the same thing. So we’ve been in touch with each other, and the guys that are on campus are still working out and doing what we can.
4. How were you able to get access to the 76ers Fieldhouse?
[Former Penn basketball star] Tony Price asked Coach Donahue if he had any guys around, but I’ve also known him for a while. And yeah, it’s open for college players and pro guys, so we went today, we went last week. There were some dudes from Temple, and it’s mostly just overseas guys that are waiting around for contracts, and a few dudes waiting for the NBA Draft. But it’s great runs.
5. Looking back to last season, how did you hear that the Ivy Tournament was being canceled, and what was your reaction?
It was tough because we kind of had to scrape our way into the tournament a little bit. It was kind of a dogfight those last few weekends, trying to get those last few wins to get a spot. I think it was a Wednesday morning, I want to say, and we were getting ready to practice. Coach Donahue called us into the locker room. I think we all assumed we were watching film because we do that a lot before practice. And as soon as he sat down, it was kind of just a weird feeling. Honestly, I thought someone had passed away or something tragic happened. And then he said that they canceled the tournament, so I mean everyone was disappointed, guys were crying.
Immediately we kind of just felt bad for AJ and Ryan and Dev and Ray and Kuba, all the seniors that wouldn’t get a chance to play their last few games. Dev obviously being two points away from 1,000, which is a huge accomplishment. So everybody felt for them, and at first we were mad. We were not happy with the Ivy League, but then obviously they made the right decision because everything shut down. So after a certain point, it’s like we can’t really feel bad for ourselves. They did it to everyone, we just happened to be the first ones.
6. How optimistic are you that you will have a season this year?
I don’t know, I mean I think if we get to play, it’ll be mostly just conference play, so I guess it wouldn’t be a full season. Hopefully, if we’re lucky, we can get some Big 5 games in, just because of the close proximity. I think I’m kind of 50-50 right now, you know. Like if we play, I would obviously be ecstatic, but if we didn’t play, I mean I would be disappointed but I wouldn’t be surprised.
The way things are looking, we’re not even allowed to get inside the gym, into the weight room or anything. So I mean everything kind of locked down on campus right now, so I think it’s kind of a toss-up. I think it can go either way. But hopefully some other schools start to come out and say that they’re going to play, then hopefully it’ll swing the Ivy League in that direction.
7. Do you know of any timetable for when you’d be able to access the Penn facilities?
Coach Donahue is optimistic about getting in toward October maybe or early November. I think that’s what they talked about in terms of the weight room maybe. In terms of the Palestra, we haven’t heard too much, but I know that they’re kind of working on a slow reopening of everything. So letting people onto the field slowly in small numbers, and then I think after that, hopefully letting people into the weight room in small numbers, and then letting us have group workouts in the Palestra. So I think they’re slowly working toward it within the next few months, but with the way things are going right now, anything could happen, things could change in a second.
8. How would you assess the way last season went for the team?
I think we had a solid season. I think if you ask anyone, we could’ve had a better season. I think there were some opponents that we kind of took lightly that we shouldn’t have that either gave us tough games or beat us. I think we beat some teams that we weren’t, on paper, necessarily supposed to beat. We obviously go into every game thinking that we can win it. So I think looking at last year’s team, I think we would’ve won the Ivy League Tournament. I think we had a good chance to make a nice run in the NCAA Tournament.
It was just about consistency, honestly. Sometimes I think we just didn’t take opponents as seriously as we should’ve, and it snuck up on us, and we had to fight at the end of the season for some wins. But I think we had a great team, though. Overall, I would say we had a good season before it got cut.
9. AJ, Dev, and Ryan were key to the team’s success over the past few years. How do you go about replacing them this season?
It’s definitely a loss. Those guys, all of them, set the culture for us, especially for my class. Most of us committed around when they won the Ivy League two years ago and made it to the [NCAA] Tournament. And that was kind of a big reason for a lot of us coming here because they kind of came into the program when it was struggling a little bit, and they brought it up to what it is now. So those are big culture guys for sure, and I think they were Coach Donahue’s first recruiting class, so they meant a lot to this program, definitely.
But just like when they were here, it’s just the “next man up” mentality. Obviously we played through AJ a lot, but when he wasn't in the game, you know, he wasn’t in the game, so other dudes have to make plays. And it’s going to be the same this year. We have a lot of guys, a good freshman class coming in. We have some dudes that were injured last year that are going to be coming back.
We have some guys, especially guys in my class, that were just kind of young last year and are going to be coming in and playing a lot, hopefully. I think those guys kind of set the tone, and I think we can hopefully elevate it and match what they did and hopefully do better. But I’m optimistic for this season. I think we have a lot of talent, a lot of athleticism, a lot of length, a lot of skilled dudes. I think we should have a good season.
10. Is there a particular aspect of your game that you’ve been looking to sharpen up during this break?
Definitely my shooting. That’s probably the weakest part of my game. Obviously it’s not easy to get into gyms right now, but as much as I can, I’ve just been getting in and trying to get up as many shots as I can. And over the summer, it’s gotten a lot better. Also just being more confident, being more aggressive. Not necessarily to score, so not necessarily just going and jacking up shots, but just being more aggressive to make plays on offense, on defense.
Those are all things that I’ve been really focusing on when I work out and also when I play pickup. I just try to guard the other team’s best player, try to make plays, trying to get guys involved, being a good leader. Those are all things I’ve kind of focused on, and then I think that they can help the team out.
11. On the roster, it shows that you’re switching your number from 11 to 22. What’s the reason for that change?
That was the number I wore in high school. I got stuck with that number in high school because the guy that graduated when I was coming in as a freshman, he plays for the New York Knicks G-League team now. He was like the best Division II player in the country. So he was really good when he left Abington, and no one wanted his jersey, and I was a freshman, so I got left with it. But now that’s my number. I wore 11 because Kuba was here, but yeah, I’m switching back to 22.
12. It’s been a full year now since you started at Penn. How has your experience been, both on and off the court?
It’s been a great experience. I mean it’s kind of cliche to say, but the guys on the team, they’re like my brothers. Everyone is super close. Two of my roommates are both on the basketball team, and then we have a bunch of group chats and stuff. We’re always joking around and talking. So being part of the team was awesome. Especially coming in as a freshman, you don’t really know people, so obviously having all these guys is great for me.
And then in terms of off the court, Penn is awesome, you know. There’s so many amazing people here. Aside from teammates, I have a lot of friends just in the school, and they’re all great people. You meet some amazing people here, some super smart people, but also just some really interesting people. So I’ve had a great experience, and I’m close to home, so I get to go home to my parents whenever I want to. It’s been a great time.
13. What’s your pregame routine?
I always like to take a few deep breaths. We have a sports psychologist that travels with the team, and we do stuff before we leave to get on the bus or if we’re at the Palestra, we do it a few hours before the game. I also like to do stuff on my own. I always go out around the same time for warmups, which is usually before most of the other guys are out there, maybe one or two guys out there when I get there. And I always go through the same kind of pregame shooting routine. I used to have a lot of superstitions in high school. I kind of didn’t bring them with me too much to college.
Well, I still do this one actually. I always have to put my right sock on, then my left sock, my right shoe, then my left shoe. I always have to tie my left shoe first, then my right shoe. I always do that, you’ll never see me do that any other way, even if I’m not playing basketball. When we go to the locker room, I wouldn’t change into my uniform until the music started playing. Just like little small stuff like that. But a lot of those things I didn’t bring with me to college just because there were so many new things that are kind of thrown at you, I was just kind of focusing on the game. So, yeah I don’t have a crazy pregame routine, but yeah, those are just some of the small things.
14. What are your plans for after you graduate?
Career-wise, I’d love to stay in basketball. Obviously my plan A would be to play professionally somewhere. I think that’s a dream, you know, to make money playing basketball. So that would be my first goal, obviously. But if not, I’d love to stay around the game, whether it be coaching or working in front offices. I’d love to work in an NBA organization. So those are my goals.
I’ve also, with everything going on these last few months, I’ve been getting into a lot more social justice issues. So I would also love to do something with that, but right now, I’m open to anything, but my main goal right now is to hopefully have a good three more years here and then be able to play somewhere, and make some money playing basketball.
15. You mentioned your recent work on social justice issues. What kinds of things have you been doing in that realm?
Especially during this summer, there were a lot of different marches in Abington, so I was speaking at a lot of those. I was sharing my own stories on my Instagram and reposting things on Instagram. We were having a lot of team discussions. I was doing a lot of interviews with Instagram accounts that were posting interviews and stuff like that. So I was doing a lot, you know, I was attending a lot of marches. Unfortunately, I don’t have the funds to donate a whole lot, so I was just doing whatever I could. And I was also educating myself, I was reading books, I was watching documentaries. I was doing as much as I could to kind of just be involved and stay active.