“Brandon had a vision,” his Huskies coach, Lorenzo Romar, says of the 2006 All-American and Pac-10 player of the year who will be honored March 14 at the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas. “Man, he’s just a sharp guy.”
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Months ago, Lorenzo Romar was thrilled to be the first to inform Brandon Roy he was going into the Pac-12's Basketball Hall of Honor.
Roy’s coach at Washington a decade ago took the opportunity to think of where Roy had come from – working in a Seattle shipyard waiting on an NCAA waiver to even get into college – and to what he became: one of the best not only at Washington but in the history of the Pacific-12 Conference.
The conference announced Friday that Washington's All-American and Pac-10 player of the year in 2006, the scorer with indefatigable will who led the Huskies to three NCAA tournaments, a No. 1 NCAA seed and consecutive Sweet 16 appearances, will be enshrined in the Pac-12 Basketball Hall of Honor next month in Las Vegas.
“Oh, man, to see it all happen for him…,” Romar said, shaking his head and smiling at SeaTac Airport Friday afternoon just before his current Huskies (14-13, 6-8 Pac-12) flew here to the Willamette Valley for Saturday’s 1 p.m. game at Oregon State (14-11, 6-7).
Roy will join 11 other league greats -- including UCLA's Tyus Edney and Stanford's Mark Madsen – as the Pac-12’s 2013-14 Hall of Honor class. They will be honored in a ceremony on Friday, March 14 prior to the semifinal games of the Pac-12 tournament at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
“Understand, when he did not get into college right away coming out of high school he held down a summer job. He went and worked,” Romar said.
“He worked. He didn’t just sit around not doing anything.”
Roy failed to achieve qualifying college entrance scores out of Seattle's Garfield High School in 2002. His scores improved so dramatically when he took the SAT a second time the disbelieving NCAA's clearinghouse rejected them as invalid. So he took the entrance test again -- and his scores were lost. Then they were found. Months of what should have been his freshman year passed, darkly.
“Yeah, the doubt definitely crept in my freshman year,” Roy said in 2009. “I thought, 'Man, I'll never have that chance.’”
The Huskies' 2002-03 season, Romar’s first at UW, began and Roy was a confused teenager. He was shut out of college and out of Washington’s Alaska Airlines Arena -- in which his retired jersey now hangs.
He needed a purpose, a job. So the NBA’s sixth-overall draft choice in 2006, its rookie of the year with the Portland Trail Blazers in ’07, scrubbed industrial spills from the insides of shipping containers as a teen in the rugged, cold shipyards at the Port of Seattle.
His family kept encouraging him, saying everyone's story is different “and this one is yours.” Each day, his co-workers at that shipyard made sure Roy didn't see the docks as a dead end.
“That taught me a lot, sitting with those guys. They would say, ‘When you get a chance to go to college, be successful,’” Roy said in 2009. "Even now, when I'm playing and it gets real hard, we’re on the road and I want to be home, I can always think ‘This can get a lot worse.’”
The NCAA finally cleared him for eligibility; Romar recalls it took an NCAA waiver to do it.
Romar remembers as if it was this morning that January day in 2003, when he told Roy that he was eligible. They hugged and held on for what Roy said had to be five minutes.
“That was probably the most special day of my life,” Roy said.
Once into UW, in the middle of that 2002-03 season, he went directly to his first Huskies practice. Within 45 minutes the tall, slashing guard had figured out an offense some teammates hadn't picked up in months.
He refused to redshirt that first season because he was so eager to play. But for the next couple seasons, he quietly sat back and let teammate Nate Robinson get the accolades as Washington soared into the nation's elite. Romar needed Roy to rebound then, so he led the Huskies in that.
Then Roy missed much of his junior season with a knee injury. He returned mainly as a sixth man – Brandon Roy, a sixth man as a junior! -- content to ease his way back in, to not disrupt the chemistry of a team on its way to another NCAA tournament.
He took over in his senior season, averaging 20.2 points and scoring the fourth-most points (666) in a UW season. He passed. He rebounded. He shut down opponents' best scorers. The Huskies went 26-7 and reached another regional semifinal of the NCAA tournament before losing to top-seeded Connecticut in overtime.
Roy was a finalist for the Wooden, Naismith and Oscar Robertson awards as national player of the year that season.
“There's not too many things he didn't do,” Romar said. “You go back and check every year of every player who has ever put on a Husky uniform. None had the year Brandon Roy had.
“Brandon Roy separates himself from any era. You can't match what he did. ... Brandon's in a class by himself.”
Roy was selected sixth overall in the 2006 NBA Draft, by the Trail Blazers. In Portland, three hours down Interstate 5, he immediately became a civic icon there, too.
“Brandon had a vision – like a lot of kids do – but Brandon had a vision that he was going to stay home and go to school and accomplish his goals that way. And he did that,” Romar said Friday.
“He left here with such a great legacy. And he left Portland with such a legacy. So well-liked, and revered in some ways. He is now a family man. He is one of the smartest guys you can ever talk to. He doesn’t flaunt that; he is very humble in that regard. But, man, he has a great, great understanding that I really admire and appreciate about him.”
Chronic knee injuries derailed his NBA career. He finished it ailing and rarely playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2012-13 season.
This week Romar said Roy and Bob Houbregs would be among the first two Huskies he'd include on a UW basketball "Mount Rushmore" of greats. In 2009 Roy joined Houbregs as the first two Huskies in 107 years of men's basketball to have their numbers retired. Roy's No. 3 is hanging from the ceiling of Alaska Airlines Arena, on its east wall.
Roy had chosen No. 3 at UW to honor his older brother, who wore it as a high-school star before troubles derailed his chance at college.
"One of two in 100 years of basketball (to get his number retired)? That's amazing," Roy said on Jan. 22, 2009, the night UW made him the 30th basketball player in the conference to have his jersey so honored.
"Even more, the 30th Pac-10 player? It's a great list to be on."
Now he’s back living in Seattle as Romar put it “a family man.” Roy and his wife Tiana -- “the only girl he ever dated,” according to Dan Raley, the former Seattle Post-Intelligencer sports writer who authored the biography of Roy published last year -- have two children. Brandon Jr. turns 7 next month and Mariah just turned 5.
The coach says Roy is welcomed around his Huskies program any time, in any capacity.
“Oh, of course,” he said Friday, scoffing at any thought he might not be.
But Romar, like Roy a former guard for the Huskies and in the NBA, believes Roy is so astute and savvy he could be a NBA general manager someday.
Basically, his coach with the Huskies thinks Brandon Roy can be anything he wants to be. Including a fantastic, full-time dad.
“I just think of a lot of different times of just getting his opinion, getting his views on certain things,” Romar said. “He had a pretty good grasp for what it was that he learned, and he could articulate that for others.
“Man, he’s just a sharp guy.”