Will Conroy: A "Diaper Dandy"

Two nights ago I sat alone in the Hec Edmundson Pavilion media room finishing a story some 30 minutes after all the other members of the press had left. It was late, the arena was dark, nobody else was there...or so I thought. That's when I got a knock at the door.

"Hey man, I just wanted to grab some water," said Will Conroy, the freshman point guard on Bob Bender's Men's Basketball team this season.

Conroy had stayed back after a night practice to watch the Duke-Kentucky game on television in one of the back rooms. You'd think that after practicing, watching a basketball game would be the last thing he'd want to do. But not for this Husky. Conroy is the type of guy that can't get enough of basketball, he simply lives and dies for the roundball - 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

He wouldn't want it any other way.
It's come with a price, though, making life hectic for Conroy, who just turned 19 a week-and-a-half ago. The typical school day starts off with class from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m.. After an hour break, he returns to his third class of the day at 11:30. Still, the day is just beginning. By 1:30, he joins the rest of the team to get taped for practice, which starts at 2:00 p.m. Practice goes until 4:00, sometimes later, and is followed by an hour of weight lifting.

By that time, the Conroy admits he's usually too tired to even thing about eating. Nevertheless, he joins the team from about 5:00-7:00 at the Crewhouse for dinner before heading to the study room for two more hours to work on schoolwork. When all that is done, he says he spends an hour or two for himself before heading to bed and starting the process all over the next day.

"Managing time is the most challenging thing [about college]," Conroy said. "It's like we have one hour a day for ourselves. Every other hour belongs to a coach or a tutor or someone else. That's the main challenge for us freshman, balancing time."

That's a night and day type of difference from high school, where Conroy says everything was much easier. While at Garfield High School, he'd practice from 2:00-5:00 p.m. and then head home.

"It'd still be sunny outside sometimes when we'd leave practice," the affable Conroy remembered of his days as a Bulldog. "Here [at the UW] I remember in the preseason we came in [Hec-Ed] when it was dark in the morning at about 5:30 a.m. and didn't leave until it was dark outside. That's crazy."

"I didn't know if I was going to be able to do this, but now I love it and wouldn't trade it for anything."

All the hours of work have really paid off, not just for Conroy but also for all of his teammates who've had to go up against him. Conroy is hands down one of the best freshman defenders to play at the UW in quite some time, using his cat-like quickness to stay with ball-handlers every step of the way For Curtis Allen, the team's starting point guard, the addition of Conroy this season has been extremely beneficial, making him work harder every time he's stepped out on the court.

"It's more up and down, it's more physical, it's more competitive," Allen said of the team's practices this season. "Everybody's competing."

"I know I'm getting a lot better from it and I'm sure everybody else is too," he added. "When you're going against tough people in practice, it won't be as tough once you're in a game."

And so far this season, those intense matchups in practice have paid dividends for the Huskies. Allen, just a sophomore, has improved his game considerably and is the team's second-leading scorer with an average of 13 points per game. In addition to that, Allen leads the team with 4.3 assists per game.

While Conroy's had a more limited role and is currently averaging a mere three points per contest, his presence on the court has given the Huskies a lift virtually every time he's checked into the game.

That was never more evident than in the Gonzaga contest nine days ago. The feisty 185-pounder checked into the game nearly seven minutes into the contest, and on Washington's first defensive possession forced a five-second violation on the Bulldog's back-up point guard Winston Brooks, who Conroy smothered five-feet beyond the top of the key. It was at least the third time he'd forced a five-second violation already this season.

Defense was something that was hammered into Conroy's head all throughout high school.

"At Garfield you have to [play defense]," he said. "We probably played three or four weeks without a basketball, just straight footwork defense."

His tenacious defense has been his trademark so far in his young career at the UW. Still limited by a fairly inconsistent jump-shot, Conroy hasn't been much of an option on the offensive side of the ball this season. He's seldomly been used with Allen on the court at the same time, so while on the court he's been utilized mainly as a person who can handle the ball, distributing it to the team's primary scoring options like Doug Wrenn and David Dixon.

"I like penetrating, getting other people the ball," Conroy said of his style of play. "My defense... definitely picking up the play of others around me. I like getting the crowd into it; when they are behind me my adrenaline starts rushing and I think I can do anything."

The crowd is something the 19-year-old tends to notice. By the time he's done here, he says he'd like for the excitement to be back in the Washington basketball program. With a young team full of promising young talent, Conroy believes they are well on their way to that and hopes the fans are recognizing that.

"I'm starting to see fans come in," he said. "I'm starting to see a bunch of old players come back. James Edwards came in. I saw [Eldridge] Recasner at one of these games. They're starting to come in. Word is starting to get out."

As Conroy heads into his first Pacific-10 game tonight against UCLA, he admits that it's still hard to believe he's a Husky.

"I can remember coming to games in the sixth grade with the band playing the same song they do now, watching guys like Donald Watts warm up," he said.

The only difference is that now he's the one warming up to the tunes of "Bow Down to Washington" while donning the Purple and the Gold. He couldn't ask for anything more - except maybe a sellout crowd and another five-second violation.

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