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Coming Out Party
Phil Taylor
March 27, 2006
Versatile Washington guard Brandon Roy was unknown outside the Pac-10 until he outshone a more heralded rival
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March 27, 2006

Coming Out Party

Versatile Washington guard Brandon Roy was unknown outside the Pac-10 until he outshone a more heralded rival

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ILLINOIS GUARD Dee Brown is both a night owl and a hoops junkie, which is why he was ahead of the curve in recognizing the multifaceted talent of Washington's Brandon Roy. During the regular season Brown often stayed up past midnight, searching out college games on television, and he would sometimes find Roy out on the West Coast, slicing and dicing opponents like a gadget on one of the late-night infomercials that were playing on other channels. "I could see right away he was a player, and he could do so many things," Brown said before facing him last Saturday in the second round of the NCAA tournament in San Diego. "You don't need to tell me how good Brandon Roy is."

Much of the rest of the country, however, had not been brought up to speed on Roy until his unveiling in the tournament. He had 28 points, five assists and three steals in the fifth-seeded Huskies' 75-61 first-round win over No. 12 seed Utah State, then topped that with a brilliant all-around performance in a 67-64 win over Illinois, the fourth seed. In addition to his 21 points, seven rebounds and three assists, Roy, a 6'6" senior guard, helped harass Brown into missing 13 of 18 shots. The victory sent the Huskies into the Sweet 16, where they will meet UConn on Friday in Washington, D.C. "Brandon was everywhere tonight, doing a little of everything," said Washington coach Lorenzo Romar after the Illinois game.

Now that people outside the Pacific time zone know who he is, there is a growing sentiment that Roy, the Pac-10 player of the year, should be mentioned along with Duke's J.J. Redick and Adam Morrison of Gonzaga in the debate over who is college basketball's best player. "[ Roy] doesn't average as many points as those guys, but he has just as big an effect on the game because of all the things he does," says Washington forward Bobby Jones.

UConn will have a hard time containing Roy because of his varied skills. Illinois tried to wear him down with physical contact, but Roy attacked the basket and made the Illini pay from the foul line. If Connecticut takes away his penetration, he can inflict damage from outside; he has shot 40% from beyond the arc this season. Because of Roy's strength, his defensive prowess and his ability to penetrate, pass, post up and hit the outside jumper, his game is similar to Detroit Pistons point guard Chauncey Billups's. "Brandon might be underrated by some people," says Romar, "but not by the people looking for players for the next level."

There was a time when Roy relished his anonymity. A highly regarded hometown recruit from Seattle's Garfield High, he failed three times to get the minimum SAT score required for eligibility, which kept him from joining the Huskies until the second semester of his freshman year. He worked as a janitor in a shipping plant while he waited to become eligible, and he tried to dodge inquiring fans at home games. "I'd sit way high up in the stands, hoping nobody would notice me," he says.

He briefly considered skipping college entirely, but after a tough workout with the Trail Blazers he decided he wasn't ready for the NBA. He again contemplated going pro early after last season but opted to return for his senior year to improve his draft stock. That decision looks like a smart move because Roy seems far more likely to be a first-round draft pick than he was a year ago. For now, however, he is less concerned with his NBA future than with getting his team beyond the Sweet 16, which is where the Huskies were eliminated last season.

"More people are seeing me now than at any other time in my career, and that's great," Roy said after the victory over the Illini. "But this is about winning, not about my proving anything to the scouts." Then again, there is one other talent Roy would like to show off before his college career is over: He thinks he would be pretty good at cutting down a net.

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