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Senior guard Lucas Monroe looks to pass the ball to a teammate during the game against Dartmouth at the Palestra on Feb. 25. Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

It’s easy to see why senior guard Lucas Monroe is a team captain for Penn men's basketball. With a confidence that can only stem from years of practice and a suave maturity, it’s apparent that Monroe captures the attention of whatever setting he’s in — something he’s proved transcends far beyond basketball. 

As Monroe put it, “I don’t want to be one dimensional,” and it’s apparent that he’s not. The multifaceted nature of his interests sets him apart from most collegiate athletes. Monroe has spent his time at Penn making a name for himself, as not only a leader but as an individual capable of creating tangible change, both on and off the court. 

His athleticism alone speaks volumes, but his positive outlook sets him apart from most Division I players. Most importantly, he’s someone whose sunny attitude doesn’t waiver, regardless of whether he’s starting or coming off the bench. This effervescence is integral to his personal brand of leadership, which coach Steve Donahue notes is derived from the ability to think strategically and motivate others around him. 

Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil Senior guard Lucas Monroe dribbles down the court against Harvard defenders during the game at the Palestra on Jan. 28.

Donahue describes him as cerebral, praising his acute ability to analytically evaluate the game and his intrinsic understanding of maximizing the team’s potential. Aggressive is a difficult term to reconcile with someone who greets everyone with a smile; however, Monroe’s ability to apply aggression when the situation warrants it makes him a formidable force on the court — something that Donahue has attributed to the recent winning streak the team has experienced, championed by Monroe’s effective leadership. 

The youngest of five children, Monroe credited his family for shaping his love of the game. He recalled stealing his brother’s old basketball shoes and yearning to follow in his footsteps. Monroe’s interest in the game didn’t fully solidify until seventh grade, when he first began playing competitively. 

Family means everything to Monroe, who committed to Penn not just because of the successes of the basketball program and academic rigor, but also for its proximity to his parents and siblings. This sense of family is something that he has also gained from the basketball team — noting that his teammates feel more like brothers than anything else. Given that team members spend an extensive amount of time training, traveling, and playing together, it’s no surprise that the majority of these friendships exist off the court.

"He’s always been like a big brother to me,” sophomore forward/center Nick Spinoso said, recounting how Monroe was one of the first people he met during the recruitment process and gave him a place to stay when he first came to Philadelphia. “He’s one of the most generous people I know.”

Activism is also something that Monroe has woven into his athletic career. He reflected on a series of games last season, where the team had made a collective decision to sit down for the national anthem — a sign of solidarity in actively demonstrating opposition to racism and support for the Black Lives Matter movement. 

“People had a lot of choice words for us,” Monroe said, recalling games in Florida, Arkansas, and South Carolina where the gesture was more broadly felt. Monroe noted that despite the backlash, many people appreciated and stood by the team’s decision. For him, the main objective was to spark a conversation, opening an avenue to bridge the intersection of sports and social justice.

Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil Senior guard Lucas Monroe lines up a free throw shot against Harvard during the game at the Palestra on Jan. 28.

Monroe has defined himself as a champion of social justice through his work as part of the first class of undergraduate fellows in the Office of Social Equity and Community. Within this role, he has hosted programming events such as service projects and a sports society that honed in on the work that remains in reaching racial equity in collegiate sports. While his teammates are no strangers to his persuasive and rousing motivational speeches as captain, Monroe has transferred his dynamic prowess as a leader to public speaking — notably addressing a crowd of nearly 900 Black Lives Matter protesters in his hometown of Abington, Pa. in 2020. 

In regard to his aspirations on the court, Monroe has his sights set on hanging a championship banner in the Palestra. While no plans have firmly been put in place, you’ll definitely be seeing Monroe on the court next year — even if he’s not sporting Penn's Red and Blue. He plans to use his remaining year of eligibility to keep playing at the collegiate level next year while completing a master’s degree. 

“That would be a dream, to be a professional basketball player,” Monroe said. The senior has also toyed with the idea of playing overseas, excited by the prospect of applying the culmination of skills he has amassed at Penn while experiencing the novelty of integrating himself into another country. 

Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil Senior guard Lucas Monroe attempts to get around the Dartmouth defense at the Palestra on Feb. 25.

Despite having a mountain of achievements under his belt and an appetite for success, Monroe’s personal legacy is refreshingly humble. 

“Personally, it’s always nice to be remembered,” he said. “I wanna be remembered as a good person, I guess, as simple as that is. When someone thinks of Lucas, I want people to be like … He’s a good-ass dude. If I do that, if I leave here, and that’s how people remember me, I’m OK with that.”

“He’s got endless possibilities basketball-wise, I don’t think he’s close to who he can be,” Donahue added. “I’m excited for the things he can impact in his life. Whatever he decides, he’s someone who will raise the level of whatever organization he’s in, just because that’s what he does.”

For someone who wants to be remembered as a friendly face, it’s clear that legacy has been cemented at Penn. As Donahue put it, “The thing about Lucas is, he’s someone you want to be around."