Bigger and stronger, Roy ready for the challenge

The pain of "March Sadness" is well behind Brandon Roy and the Washington Huskies. Since their early exit from the NCAA Tournament, Roy and the Huskies have been lacing up their sneakers and going at it in empty gyms for months in hopes of exceeding the surprise success they found last year.

Washington will host Westmont College for an exhibition game on Tuesday, November 9th at Bank of America Arena, and then open up the season at home against Seattle Pacific on November 19th.

"Man, it just seems like forever," said Roy. "All this off-season spring workouts and all, it's finally time to show what we've been working on."

For those that have been following the program for awhile, it is quite remarkable to see Roy playing basketball at the University of Washington. Out of Garfield High School, he committed to play for former coach Bob Bender. Then, the NCAA Clearinghouse took a great amount of time in reviewing his grades, and it looked as if his potential career with the Huskies was in jeopardy.

He was cleared well into the 2002-2003 season, finally joining the team for the second half of the season. As a freshman, he often looked lost and overwhelmed by it all. It's hard to fathom, but Roy is a now a junior, and was recently elected team captain by his teammates along with senior Will Conroy.

"It's weird," said Roy. "Now I'm walking around campus and seeing freshmen and sophomores. I'm an upperclassman now and I can remember like it was yesterday I was talking to coach Romar and he asked me if I was nervous about starting school.

"I wanted to be captain this year. I feel like the way I play and the way I lead by being unselfish I can really help this team and give us an identity."

Roy had many identities last season. He was second on the team in scoring (12.9 ppg), led the team in rebounding (5.3 rpg), and was second in assists (102) and steals (37). It was this kind of balanced play that earned him a spot on the National Basketball Writer's Association all-district team in 2004.

Roy has added 15 pounds of muscle and bulk to his 6-foot-6 frame during the off-season and looks noticeably bigger. Roy says that he put on the weight because he wanted to be stronger to do battle with the big men in the paint for scores and rebounds.

"I wanted to come in and put on weight and tell everyone that I wanted to lead the team in rebounds again and put pressure on Mike Jensen, Hakeem Rollins, and Jamaal Williams to try to beat me for that," he said. "Rebounding is the key to our success and I want to put pressure on them to try and beat me on that."

It is that kind of attitude that makes coaches and teammates label Roy as "one of the smartest basketball players I know," or a player with the "highest basketball IQ."

"That's a compliment," said Roy with a laugh. "Some people say it's unselfish with my style of play, but I don't think of it as unselfishness; I think of it as making the right basketball play. I don't want to be categorized as a shooting guard or a point guard. I want to be categorized as a basketball player. I want to try to do everything so we can win some games."

Washington is currently ranked 24th in the preseason coaches poll. It's their first appearance in a preseason poll since 1999 and only their second time since 1985.

"I think with all the early season projections we were making about finishing high in the conference, we were putting pressure on ourselves," said Roy. "We don't want to have to eat our own words. I think being ranked, we have to learn how to play being ranked and good ranked teams play one game at a time."

This team would not be as successful had the local players on this team chose different paths. In the past, the idea of the state's top basketball players finding greener pastures outside state lines was a given. Things are obviously changing with that notion but you don't have to tell Roy that. Roy turned down overtures from Lute Olson and Arizona and decided to stay close to home to play basketball for the Huskies.

"I feel like I was a good enough basketball player, where if I go to the University of Washington, my success can be measured by not how good the program has been in the past, but how good we are while I am there," he said. "We're going in the right direction as to being a good program, and there is no better feeling than people suggesting that you helped start that."

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