- The Washington Times - Friday, March 24, 2006

Panned when he committed to play for his hometown college. Snubbed by the McDonald’s All-America decision makers. Forced by SAT struggles to delay his freshman enrollment and work at a shipping company. Hobbled his entire junior year — his planned breakout season — by a knee injury.

Brandon Roy has gone through plenty during his University of Washington basketball career. Which is why the aforementioned stumbling blocks/slights/injuries make tonight all the more special. Roy, the Pac-10 player of the year, will lead his team against Connecticut in the regional semifinals at Verizon Center.

“Definitely gratifying,” Roy said yesterday after the Huskies’ practice. “I feel I was built to lead this team.”

Roy, who boasts averages of 20.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists, became only the 10th player in school history to average at least 20 points a game in a season.

Throw in 38 3-pointers — Roy had only 14 in his first three seasons — and he is “Concern number 1” for Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun.

“If he’s not one of the best two or three kids in the country, then I guess I’ve lost my judgment about how good a guy can be,” Calhoun said. “From a coaching standpoint, he’s everything you want a player to be. He can do more than any player in the country, [Gonzaga’s Adam] Morrison and [Duke’s J.J.] Redick included. We’re going to have a tough time matching up with him.”

Roy averaged 12.8 points and 5.0 rebounds during his first three seasons at Washington. But even as early as last summer, he showed promise. Roy became more assertive from the perimeter, drove to the bucket and emerged as a vocal leader.

“Everybody in the program knew what type of player he was, and we all knew he was going to have a great year,” sophomore guard Ryan Appleby said. “He’s really improved his outside shot this year, and he’s able to hit that 3-pointer consistently. That’s made defenses come out on him, and then he uses his quickness and strength to drive by them.”

Roy scored 49 points in two tournament victories.

“I thought I would have a chance to average 20 points because we had a lot of young guys who we didn’t know what to expect of,” he said. “I knew I needed to be aggressive.”

It’s been an eventful four-plus years for Roy, who attended high school in Seattle. He was expected to follow Michael Dickerson (Arizona), Curtis Borchardt (Stanford) and Jamal Crawford (Michigan) out of the Northwest. And who could have blamed Roy? When he committed to the Huskies, Washington was in a three-year stretch in which it went 31-58, resulting in Bob Bender’s firing.

“I took pride in wanting to go to the University of Washington,” Roy said. “People told me, ‘That’s a mistake. Washington isn’t any good.’ But that was my motivation. I knew we could be good.”

Despite averaging 22.3 points and 10.4 rebounds as a high school senior, Roy was not a McDonald’s All-American and watched the game on television.

“When the list came out, I was pretty upset,” he said. “I remember going to the gym right after watching the game.”

The hits kept coming. Roy qualified on his fourth SAT attempt, but the NCAA’s delay in clearing him for enrollment meant he did not join Washington until January 2003 and played only 13 games his freshman season.

Roy’s first season was also coach Lorenzo Romar and guard Nate Robinson’s first years at Washington. Along with Tre Simmons and Will Conroy, the Huskies went from a Pac-10 doormat (10-17 in 2002-03) to conference champions (29-6 last year). Washington is 26-6 this season.

Roy was primed to star last season and then possibly leap to the NBA. Those hopes were derailed in the season’s third game when he tore the meniscus in his right knee. The injury sidelined Roy for five games and limited him until the NCAA tournament.

Roy focused on being a team player, deferring to veterans who were older and healthier. But he occasionally heard otherwise.

“I sometimes have thought people didn’t appreciate the way I played, that I wasn’t exciting enough for them,” he said. “They would say, ‘He does things pretty well, but he doesn’t do one thing great.’ At the time, I thought, ‘Wow. A guy that does everything good but not one thing great isn’t very good?’

“But I think now people know I’m a well-rounded player and realize that, with me, scoring isn’t everything.”

Said Romar: “Jim Harrick used to say that great players take their teams to great heights. … When you have somebody as talented as Brandon who can go out, assess a game to see where there is a weakness and what his team needs and then go out there and give it to you — that’s a winner.”’

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