'Dubb' proves worth

Three years ago, Will Conroy made a choice that could have been considered a risk by man. Eschewing scholarship opportunities, Will took a chance by walking-on at the University of Washington. The junior point guard who prepped at Garfield has not only earned a scholarship to play hoops, but is also a co-captain with senior Curtis Allen this season. 'Dubb', as his friends call him, has proven to be a solid investment for the Dawgs.

But it hasn't come without some growing pains. After playing the 2 as a sophomore, Will was asked to take on the 1, playing more of a point guard position, what the UW coaches would call a 'pure' guard. In the first conference road trip of the season, Conroy had 5 points against Cal and 6 against then #5 Stanford.

What people didn't know at the time the Huskies were mired in an 0-5 start to conference play in 2003-2004 was that the team had not given up on itself. That was one of the first lessons they had to learn, and probably the hardest one as well. "First of all, this team will never give up," Conroy told Dawgman.com recently. "We will never quit. Most of the players on this team have been in situations, not even related to basketball, where they haven't had things. So this team is made up of a bunch of guys that just won't give in."

'Dubb' was not going to let obstacles thrown in front of him act as a deterrent to running the team he and Allen were responsible for. "I'm a point guard, bottom line," he said adamantly. "I'm going to try and get guys off first, and then I'll look for mine and defend. That's my job."

And that he has done. "He just went over 100 assists for the second time in his career, which is a phenomenal feat by itself," said Assistant coach Cameron Dollar, no stranger to the role of point guard. "I just think he's developing and growing as a player and as a person.

"Going from a scoring guard to what we would consider to be more of a 'pure' guard, it's a tough adjustment. You feel weird, you feel like you lose a little bit of your game. He continues to transform himself before our eyes. Not only in front of the staff, but in front of the team, the program, and the city. He's becoming more of a guy that understands that if he sets his guys up and is patient, he'll still get the same number of looks. They'll just come in a different way. He just needs to look for his spots. He's doing a great job."

The stats would back up Dollar's assertion. Conroy averaged 12.7 points per game as a sophomore, the exact number he is currently throwing down. But Will isn't the only player that has done his part when it comes to the Huskies' dramatic turnaround of late. "It takes a team to buy into the system," he said. "It's like getting cancer. If you have one bad cell in your body, it can create cancer. We've had guys that the team that have been in the locker room that have had disagreements, but when we get on the floor we do exactly what we're told. And that's big-time in a program

"As young men that are growing up, we think we can do it our own way, but the coaches know what's best. They've been through these situations plenty of times. We have coaches that are national champions (Dollar and Lorenzo Romar), and all the coaches know what it takes to win. They help us big-time."

Clearly the turnaround began when Washington won a dramatic 103-99 come-from-behind victory on the road against Oregon State. But Will points to earlier times to show that the team was on the cusp of breaking out and doing something big. "We started playing better basketball against Oregon and UCLA, but we didn't have the wins to prove it," said Conroy. "At Oregon State, the basketball gods were looking down at us and Nate hit that big shot and got us rolling."

Will points to the diversity in scoring and leadership that's helping the Huskies reach goals that appeared unattainable after their dismal conference start. "Brandon Roy probably scores the easiest, Nate (Robinson) can get it going," he said. "He can knock it down. Tre Simmons can get it going. Mike Jensen and the bigs, they can stop, pop and put it down. Same with Bobby Jones. So on every given night, it could be anybody. And that's scary."

So far the Hoop Dawgs have had all nine of their main rotation of players score in double-digits at least once this year, and seven of those nine have actually taken leading scorer roles as well. Conroy's biggest game was a 29-point, 7-rebound effort against Oregon, the game before UW's 'turnaround'.

"Winning helps with coaching, it helps with recruiting, it helps with practice," Conroy said about racking up 'W's. "When you lose you start to think, 'Hey, maybe we should do it our way', but guys on this team are maturing and when they get on the floor they are going to do what coach says."

And what is it going to take to win their last four conference games? Conroy is doing what any good leader does - repeat the team mantra like a broken record. Clearly the message Lorenzo Romar and the rest of the coaching staff is sending has reached those in a position to lead the team down the final stretch.

"It's going to take a belief in what the coaches want us to do," Will said. "They have the best plan for us, so if we all buy into what they want us to do down the stretch, we'll get it done."

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