Tyler Monroe is back and ready to help lead Azusa Pacific men’s basketball team to bounce back after they finished with a 13-14 record last season.
The 6-foot-7 basketball player is a senior in his fifth year and one of the team’s captains. Being a student, captain, husband and soon-to-be father can be a lot, but for Monroe, it is all a part of the unplanned journey of life.
Monroe had originally signed to play at Seattle University, but when it did not work out he began looking for another place to play basketball. Because of a coach who knew APU head coach Justin Leslie, Monroe visited APU and loved it.
“I really respected the coaching staff first and foremost. From there on everything else just kind of fell into place,” Monroe said.
The Cougars not only count on Monroe as captain but also when it comes to making the most needed plays.
“He can finish which is really nice. If you need a bucket, you can count on him,” junior guard Robert Sandoval said.
During the 2012-2013 season, Monroe redshirted. It wasn’t easy for the team to go without him, but his absence provided a learning experience for the team.
“It affected our team a lot, not having that experience there, because he played the year before and was that leadership for our big men,” Sandoval said.
While Monroe was out last season, he was able to realize how important and unique his situation was.
“Coming back this year has been motivating, to play better, to play harder … It’s not something that is just given, it really is a privilege for me to be here. Playing hard and just enjoying it,” Monroe said.
From being someone to count on, off and on the court, being a focal point on his team and handling the extra attention surrounding him as a captain, Leslie hopes Monroe can go all the way his senior year.
“My expectation for Tyler is to have a huge senior year for us and it is certainly not going to be easy; it’s going to be challenging. He is going to have his ups and his downs but I think he really has a shot to grow and be a special player for us this year,” Leslie said.
According to Leslie, Monroe is a big-time competitor and has been able to step back and keep it in the team context and be able to bring those around him up while he brings what he can do on the court.
“Last year was really good for Tyler, being able to step back. Kind of evaluate what he does well, both positively and negatively. I think he learned a lot from that. He has been almost a completely different person than he was a few years ago. I believe that was because of that redshirt experience,” Leslie said.
The passion Monroe brings to the court is evident to his teammates.
“I love that he gets so energized off of plays and he just brings out that energy. It transforms our team,” Sandoval said. “He just gets so fired up and passionate about it.”
Monroe’s motto for basketball has always been strong and simple: “Play hard.” This shapes his ability to handle it all and go all the way in each aspect of his life.
The future is bright for Monroe. He is months away from being a father and plans to continue playing basketball after his days as a Cougar are over.
“I will probably go play overseas, see how that works out and just kind of go from there,” Monroe said. “I’m hopeful that anything will work out.”
The team won their season opener during the first night of the Cougar Classic, rolling through the Cal State Dominguez Hills Toros 92-73 Friday night. Monroe scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds in his first game back with the Cougars. On Saturday night’s game against the Cal Poly Pomona Broncos, Monroe scored 10 points and grabbed eight boards.