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UW Men's Basketball
Unassuming Roy does it all for Huskies
Seattle Times staff reporter
Brandon Roy has never been big on calling attention to himself.
"He wasn't one of those kids who'd say, 'I'm bored,' " said Roy's father, Tony. "He would always find a way to entertain himself. Sometimes, we'd have to say, 'Are you in there?' because he'd be in his room for two hours and wouldn't say anything."
He doesn't have the made-for-TV flash in his game to attract the national media that former teammate Nate Robinson did.
And he hasn't even been the most heralded college basketball player in his state this season, with Adam Morrison grabbing almost daily ESPN exposure with wild scoring outbursts at Gonzaga.
But those looking beneath the surface realize Roy is in the midst of one of the greatest seasons ever turned in by a Husky. He will play his final home game at Edmundson Pavilion today against California.
From scoring when needed, to defending the opponent's best offensive player every night, to stepping out of his more comfortable behind-the-scenes role and becoming the team leader, Roy has done it all.
California at Washington 5 p.m. today at Edmundson Pavilion
5 p.m. today at Edmundson Pavilion
TV/Radio: FSN/950 AM
Records: UW 21-5 overall, 10-5 Pac-10; Cal 17-7, 11-4
Bottom line: A showdown with huge implications in the chase for the Pac-10 title — UW is all but eliminated from contention with a loss. ... Jamaal Williams, a senior, will return to the starting lineup for his final home game. ... California won the first meeting, 71-69, after UW rallied from a 13-point deficit with less than six minutes left to tie.
Next game: At Arizona State, Thursday, 6 p.m.
"Brandon is special," said Tom Newell, longtime NBA coach and scout. "Nate reminded me of a can of soda pop. You shake it and pop the top and it's spraying everywhere. But look at Brandon; he's like a fine wine. There's just something subtle about his game and his demeanor that you appreciate."
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said he thinks Roy is having an even better season than Ed O'Bannon, who was the college player of the year at UCLA in 1995 when Romar was an assistant with the Bruins.
"I've never coached someone as versatile as him," Romar said of Roy, who is 21.
Consider that the 6-foot-6 Roy is ranked among the Pac-10's leaders in 10 of 13 individual statistics, — scoring (second, 19.7), rebounding (11th, 5.5), field-goal percentage (sixth, 50.3), assists (fourth, 4.19), free-throw percentage (eighth, 80.7), steals (seventh, 1.52), blocked shots (ninth, 0.88), assist-to-turnover ratio (first, 1.85), three-point percentage (eighth, 39.7) and offensive rebounds (10th, 2.23).
"I always thought he was the best player on the team, without any question," said former UW coach Marv Harshman, who said only Detlef Schrempf was as complete a player of those he coached at Washington.
In fact, when the history of the Huskies' recent basketball renaissance is written, it might be Roy's name that is most prominent.
He was a big-time recruit who decided to stay home when the program was floundering. And he resisted the lure of the NBA to return for a senior season that has allowed the Huskies to make the jump from Cinderella story to consistent winners. Washington is on its way to a third straight NCAA tournament appearance for only the second time in school history.
Roy recalled that when he signed with UW, "Everybody said, 'why didn't you go to Arizona or Kansas?' At those schools, I would have accomplished those things. But it will make me a lot happier in the future knowing I went to the University of Washington and still accomplished all those great goals."
Interesting to remember, then, that Roy had about as uneven a beginning to his Huskies career as possible.
After a standout career at Garfield High School in Seattle, he signed with UW when Bob Bender was still coach.
But Bender was fired the following March, leaving Roy in limbo.
Bobby Jones, guard, Compton, Calif.: The first player recruited to UW by Lorenzo Romar, he has played in all but one game of the Romar era. He says his favorite Hec Ed memory is the win over No. 1-ranked Stanford in 2004. "We were the underdog — now that we are supposed to win, people aren't running on the court anymore — but the crowd ran on the court celebrating, and we needed that win," he said. "There was so much at stake. It was just an awesome time."
Mike Jensen, forward, Kentwood High: Jensen is the last player remaining who saw action when Bob Bender was still coach. He said his two favorite Hec Ed moments are beating Stanford in 2004 and "watching the guys beat Gonzaga this year," a game he missed due to injury. "Just turning the program around has been an amazing thing," he said.
Jamaal Williams, forward, Corona, Calif.: Williams, who played at UW the past two seasons after transferring from New Mexico, said his two favorite Hec Ed moments are beating Gonzaga this season and the announcement of the No. 1 seed last year. "To be a part of that was just a great feeling," he said.
Brandon Roy, guard, Garfield High: Roy says he has three favorite memories of Hec Ed — the win over Stanford in 2004, a win over Arizona earlier that season, and the announcement of the No. 1 seed last year. "I'm just now getting over the goose bumps of thinking, 'Man, we were a No. 1 seed,' " he said.
Zane Potter, forward, Boring, Ore.: Potter, a walk-on, said his two favorite Hec Ed moments were the announcements of the seeds in both 2004 and 2005. "I never thought I'd be a part of something like that," he said.
Roy admits he knew almost nothing of Romar when he was hired. Roy said he initially didn't even know who Romar was when the coach called to set up a meeting at Garfield.
But the two clicked immediately, talking non-stop during lunch period one day.
"He told me years later that when he heard 'Brandon Roy,' he was thinking I was maybe this tough-looking guy who may not be too friendly," Roy said. "When he saw I was all cool and smiling and laid back, he said that really made him feel comfortable."
Still, Roy wasn't quite ready to completely become a Husky. Due in part to three failed attempts to get a qualifying SAT score — the first, he says, he didn't prepare for and took just so he could make recruiting visits; another, he says, was lost — he declared for the NBA draft in May 2002.
"I don't think he really realized the value at the time of going to college," said Tony Roy.
Brandon Roy, who is majoring in American ethnic studies, quickly found out that he wasn't ready for the NBA and pulled out of the draft. But Tony Roy says he thinks that incident created a misperception of what kind of player his son was.
"I think a lot of people expected him to come to the UW and be this big 30-point scoring, non-passing guy, and to see him be the total flip side of that, it was like, 'Wow, we don't know what to make of this guy.' "
But with the SAT issue still unresolved, Roy didn't enroll until January 2003, spending what should have been the first fall of his college life as a working stiff.
For four months, he worked four to five hours in the morning at a shipping-container plant, lifting containers, organizing files and cleaning. Afterward, he'd work out and study for the SAT. He'd sit in the stands at UW games with his dad, trying to sneak past fans who'd point and whisper.
"I was a nobody," Roy recalls of that time. "I was that guy they said, 'What happened to Brandon Roy? He's another guy who failed.' I was like, 'All my friends are moving on and I'm stuck here in the middle of nowhere.' But that made me work hard. I mean, there's nothing wrong with everyday working. But I'm built to play basketball."
He was groomed for it, as well.
Tony Roy played guard at Seattle's Lincoln and Garfield high schools, graduating in 1982, but left basketball behind when he entered the Marine Corps following the birth of his oldest son, Ed, and his marriage to wife, Gina.
Brandon Roy was born in 1984, when Tony Roy was stationed at Camp Pendleton near San Diego. A daughter, Jaamela, completed the family. (Brandon Roy also lists a cousin, Deeon, whom the family has raised since age 5, as a brother in UW's media guide).
It was that family dynamic, Brandon Roy says, that helped create his on-floor persona of never being afraid to pass up a good shot to get a better shot for a teammate.
"I'm the middle child, so I always felt I had to put my own selfish things aside so my brother could have more, my sister could have more," Roy said. He has already pledged to pay Jaamela's tuition for acting school next year should basketball pay off as expected.
The Roys eventually returned to Seattle — Tony Roy drove Metro buses for 17 years and Gina worked at the school district — and basketball became the family game. Ed Roy paved the way for his younger brother — they are separated by two years — in initially earning stardom at Garfield. But his college career was stunted by academics, something Brandon Roy said inspired him during his own problems.
"I was always Ed's little brother or Tony Roy's son," Brandon said. "I never had my own name. I think that had a lot to do with making me the way I am today. I was 'the man' on my own teams. But in the overall scheme of things, it was always just, 'he's little Brandon.' "
But he's the big man on campus now. He survived the early academic hurdle to become a key part of the 2003-04 team that led the resurgence in Washington hoops. Last year, a knee injury forced him into more of a complementary role than he anticipated, and concerns over his health — which likely would have relegated him to being a second-round pick at best — helped convince him to come back for another year.
He had a couple of stumbles early this season, including a 10-point night in a highly publicized showdown against Morrison and Gonzaga. He admits it was one time he wavered from his usual pregame routine, which includes its share of laughing and joking around.
"People were telling me I was too hyped up and too focused against Gonzaga," he said. "They said, 'Stay loose because that's you.' "
But that was part of Roy adjusting to his new role as team leader, one teammates admit they wondered how well he would accept.
"Coming into the season, I would have questioned whether he was vocal enough to be a leader and take charge of this team the way Will Conroy did," said forward Jamaal Williams. "But he's done a great job of being a vocal leader when we were down and hitting big shots in games when we needed him to."
And along the way, the attention he admittedly welcomed — though never really screamed out for — has come. He's likely to be an All-American, be it first, second or third team, and is in a two-man race with Leon Powe of California for Pac-10 player of the year. His NBA stock also is on the rise, and he's projected as a mid-first-rounder.
"That's the most grateful thing I've taken from this year," Roy said. "That people are recognizing what I do on the floor and they are appreciating it. That makes it easier to go out there and do what I do."
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company