Seniors, it's been one thrilling ride

Will Conroy walks out to the empty Hec Edmundson Pavilion floor after Thursday night's win over Arizona State and looks around. Less than an hour earlier, 10,000 fans had packed into one of the new "hot spot" basketball arenas in the country and cheered their hometown Huskies to another win.

But according to the rules of college basketball, there will only be one more time that Conroy, along with three other senior Huskies, will hear those cheers that he has come to adore for the past four years.

"I love this place," said Conroy. "I've been here when seats haven't been filled and now I've been here when they are filled. I bark at the Dawgpack, they bark back at me. It's like having a second family."

Conroy stops near the "W" and rotates around, looking at the empty purple seats and the trash on the ground. He wonders where the time has gone.

"I'm just going to bask in the ambience – is that what they say?" said Conroy, clearly relishing the moment.

Will knows that he and his team have come a long ways since his freshman year. Once a player without a scholarship, Conroy could leave Washington as the greatest playmaker in the history of the program – he needs just one assist to tie Chester Dorsey's single-season mark of 163 assists, and eight to tie Dorsey's career mark of 466.

But it's the importance of the game coming up that has Conroy concentrated and focused, not the possibility of breaking two records.

"This game is going to be huge. I think it'll be similar to the Stanford game," said Conroy, referring to last season's epic upset over the No.1 Cardinal during 2004's Senior Day. "This game is more of a revenge game. We felt that we played harder than them down in Tucson. We let one slip away but we have a chance to get revenge on our court. I would like to end my legacy undefeated. So there is a lot at stake here."

The path that each senior member of the team took to this point is as different as night and day. Conroy is the only senior who has spent his entire career at Washington. Only Conroy has first hand experience of the "not-so-glorious" years of Washington basketball. Tre Simmons went to two different junior colleges before enrolling last school year and Hakeem Rollins was dominating the courts of the Arizona junior college circuit before he enrolled. Even the fourth senior, walk-on Alex Johnson, transferred after a couple years at Bellevue Community College. But according to Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar, tenure has nothing to do with the emotions and the universal meaning of playing in your final home game.

"Hakeem, Tre, and Alex Johnson have been here for two years and it's a big game for them," said coach Romar. "Will has been here for four and he's seen a wide range of events here at Washington, and I know it will be special for him."

Simmons has tried his best all week to downplay the situation. He says that the thought of him playing his last game in front of the hometown crowd hasn't really hit him yet.

"I won't feel the emotions until the end of the season when it's all said and done," said Simmons. "After Arizona, we have more games to play."

Never the one to give the "quote-of-the-day," Simmons was all business against Arizona State on Thursday, tying a career-high 29 points, including 6-of-7 from threes.

But in all seriousness, he has to agree that he will miss hearing the hometown crowds simultaneously erupt.

"It's huge. Our fans are our sixth man," he said. "They've been there since the pre-season. All respect goes out to them. These past two years went by so fast. I remember thinking 'I can't wait for the NCAA Tournaments and now it's all almost over."

Rollins is also trying to downplay the emotions of his last game. On Thursday, Rollins had his best defensive game of the season. Forget the fact that ASU's Ike Diogu went off for 31 points and 15 rebounds. Rollins had his share of moments in with three huge blocks and let his presence be known.

"Pretty much the only thought we have securing first place in the Pac-10 and try to win the league championship and secondary, for the seniors," said Rollins. "It's going to be the last time that we play here so we're just going to try to make the most of it."

But like Simmons, Rollins felt like "he just got here" and he agrees that he feels like he just walked through the doors of Hec Edmundsen Pavilion yesterday for the first time.

"It gets crazy," he sad. "I feel like I'm getting used to it and just like that, it starts to wind down. But I've got great memories here but I just want to end with another one."

Fittingly, each senior will be honored before tip-off on Saturday. All four Huskies have played some role in this recent Husky basketball renaissance that the entire state is enjoying, and according to Romar, that will be their legacy.

"It's either going to be something like, 'I remember when...,' or it's going to be 'Those are the guys that got it started to where the program is now.,'" said Romar. "One of those two will be their legacy, and I hope it's the latter."

And Conroy, the captain of the team and easily the most vocal and emotional player on the court, agrees with that testament as he heads out of the tunnel. But not before giving a wave to the few crowds still hanging around.

"I think we built a foundation here where kids want to actually come here," he said. "And there will be more to follow. And Coach Romar, being from Los Angeles, that really opens up his recruiting. He's able to get some of the best talent from the west coast. And the campus isn't bad at all, it's a pretty campus. People treat you well here and with the support of the Dawgpack, I think every kid growing up would want to play in front of a crowd like that." Top Stories