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Originally published March 24, 2005 at 12:00 AM | Page modified March 24, 2005 at 3:15 PM

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Steve Kelley

Roy carries on despite a frustrating season

The Plan was working perfectly until he grabbed a rebound in Alaska in late November and felt a click in his right knee.

Seattle Times staff columnist

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Plan for the basketball year was hatched in the hot summer hours spent inside Hec Ed.

This was going to be Brandon Roy's season and the Huskies were going to be Roy's team. He was going to play his small forward position better than all the guys he watched on TV.

Better than Louisville's Francisco Garcia. Better than Alabama's Kennedy Winston. Better than Illinois' Luther Head. He was going to play 30-plus minutes a night and lead Washington to a No. 1 seed and enjoy the ride to the Sweet 16 and beyond.

And the NBA scouts would be watching and his stock would rise like Wall Street in the 1990s all the way to the first round of the June draft.

This wasn't a dream. It was The Plan. And The Plan was working perfectly until he grabbed a rebound in Alaska in late November and felt a click in his right knee that he figured was as benign as a bruise.

"He really, really wanted to have a great year this year, then go to the NBA," Washington assistant coach Ken Bone said. "He could have done that. And then he got hurt and now his dreams are really shot. His personal dreams at least."

The click turned out to be an omen. It was the dark cloud that preceded the hurricane of emotional hurt that followed. The click was his meniscus tearing. The click required surgery to fix. The click wrecked The Plan.

"I was really looking forward to this year," Roy said yesterday, slouching on a couch inside the Huskies' locker room. "For it to go down so early in the season, it's just been a real roller-coaster ride. It crossed my mind once to just shut it down totally for the whole year. But I wanted to play so bad. We're all friends. We all came into the season with high expectations.

"I told Coach (Lorenzo Romar) that I was going to keep playing and we were going to get a No. 1 seed. Then we lost a couple of games and I really got down. I was thinking, 'Man I came back early and we're still not going to get a No. 1 seed and I'm not even helping them out.' "

Roy found a way to push through the pain and played a huge part in Washington's success this season. He returned less than a month after the Nov. 30 arthroscopic surgery as the Huskies' sixth man.

In many ways, he remains the glue of this very tight team.

He has played in 25 of Washington's 34 games and averages 12.7 points, third best on the team. He was honorable mention on the all-Pac-10 team. In tonight's Sweet 16 game against Louisville, he will play a significant role defending Garcia.

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"I've been really impressed with the way he's handled the whole situation," Bone said. "He's definitely had to take a back seat. There just hasn't been a lot of talk about Brandon Roy, but really, he's as good a player as we have on our team. Without a doubt. But he was disappointed. It's been hard for him. He hasn't been as chipper as he was last year."

He has been good at hiding his pain from the public. When Roy was asked about the condition of his knee, he'd say it was 80 or 85 percent, when it felt more like 60 or 65. On the nights he didn't play, he led the cheers from the bench and smiled broadly when the student section chanted his name.

But in private, in his apartment, there were times when the depression overwhelmed him, when he felt so down he didn't want to leave the living room. There were nights when his roommate, Will Conroy, had to hoist him off the couch and into the city.

"When they were winning and I wasn't playing, I was like, 'Man, you guys can go out. I'm not even playing right now,' " Roy said. "I was feeling like a nobody. Will was telling me that every time I come into the gym people were calling my name, but I told him it wasn't the same."

Conroy didn't listen to his roommate's laments. He knew the truth. Knew how valuable Roy was to the team. And knew how appreciated he was in the community.

"I've dragged him out a few times, when he didn't feel too good," Conroy said. "I tell him that everybody knows him. It's not like people come up to him and say, 'Why are you coming off the bench?' I mean everybody in Seattle treats him like a star. They know talent."

On Selection Sunday, when Washington's name appeared on the big screen inside the gym, announcing Washington as the No. 1 seed in the Albuquerque region, Roy exploded from his chair.

"Nobody really understood what I've been going through," he said. "But when I was sitting there, I was thinking, 'We can still be a No.1 seed.' And when I saw our name come up, it was, 'Wow.' It was like everything I went through was all worthwhile."

And now Roy is working on a New Plan that includes a trip to the NBA draft camp in Chicago in June.

But what if Roy returned to Washington for his senior season and became the leader and filled up the stat sheet as if it were a wish list? One more year would erase any doubts scouts would have about the condition of his knee.

One more year is the perfect New Plan.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com

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About Steve Kelley

Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
skelley@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2176

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