Del Mar basketball star headed to Yale

Since he was 3 years old, Eric Monroe has been obsessed with basketball.

“As long as my memory can go back, I’ve loved it,” he said from his Del Mar home. “It’s been the focal point of my life as long as I remember.”

Since then, Eric has pursued the sport in a big way — from joining St. Augustine’s varsity basketball team as a mere freshman, gaining notoriety on travel teams, and, his latest coup, being recruited by none other than Yale University for the 2016 season.

“It feels awesome,” Eric explains of joining the ranks of the Ivy League university’s esteemed basketball program. “To have a goal like that checked off my list is pretty cool. Pretty exciting.”

Honing his basketball skills in Del Mar, Eric suffered a setback when he was just a kid that motivated him throughout the rest of his life.

Originally living in Carmel Valley, the family moved to Del Mar, among other reasons, because their new house was outfitted with a basketball hoop. “It was where I spent a lot of my time, dribbling and shooting. That hoop meant a lot to me,” he said.

However, his Del Mar neighbors were annoyed by the racket it caused and soon made their frustrations heard. “They were pretty vocal about me not playing outside anymore, and after a while they contacted the city about it.”

The city soon asked Monroe to take the hoop down — a huge blow for the youngster, who cherished the simple hoop.

“When it was dismantled, it was traumatic,” Eric said, looking back. “After a while, however, what that did was push me to almost prove those neighbors wrong. I wanted to keep working on my game after that … and it paid off.”

Eric isn’t kidding; years of practice led him to join the St. Augustine varsity squad as a mere freshman — a rarity. During that first year with the team, he wound up helping secure both CIS and State Championship titles.

“As far as accomplishments though, that was a big one,” he noted. “I was really fortunate enough to be part of a great program. We’re taught that there’s so much more to basketball than what’s on the court, and I think that was the key to our success.”

During the off-season, Eric kept busy playing travel ball, and at a recent tournament in Springfield, Mass., the powers that be from Yale’s basketball program caught wind of his talent.

“They followed my progress through the rest of this past summer,” Eric said. “They saw me play quite a bit and I got to know them.”

By July, Yale offered Eric a spot on the team as part of the incoming class in 2016 — a huge break. “It was almost a no-brainer for me to accept their offer because of the success they’ve had basketball-wise.”

Now, Eric has to get through his senior season at St. Augustine, knowing that Yale is right around the corner. “It gives me much less pressure coming into the season,” he said. “If you’re a basketball player who wants to get to the next level, knowing that that’s locked up and ready to go makes you focus much more on the game.”

Not that he had any problems focusing on the sport before.