Leading by Example – Will Conroy

Practice had hit the two-hour mark. It was four-fifths done by the clock's standards, and the players were sucking for wind, still unaccustomed to their new head coach's practice regimen. As the team scrimmaged five on five, an erratic bounce pass from one of the team's young forwards looked to be heading out of bounds near the baseline.

That's when it happened.

Out of nowhere, a flash raced towards the ball. What was the blur throwing himself up in the air after the orange sphere? No. 5, Will Conroy.

"Timeout!" he yelled, sweat pouring off his head, tattoos draped across both his arms. "Timeout!"

That's all you have to know to get the full picture of Conroy, a second-year sophomore out of Garfield High School in Seattle. Conroy, who averaged only 2.5 points and 1.6 assists as a freshman, made up for his lack of offense with an unparalleled intensity and commitment to the defensive side of the ball. By the final month of the season, that had won over the heart of former Head Coach Bob Bender enough to take the starting point guard spot from two-year starter Curtis Allen. When the season concluded, Conroy was named the team's defensive MVP.

Since then, the change in coaching staff has leveled the playing field, and heading into the 2002-03 season nobody has the chance to capitalize from that more than the six-foot, one-inch Conroy. New Head Coach Lorenzo Romar has stated that every job is up for grabs, and the most heated battle could potentially be at point guard.

The question comes down to Allen or Conroy. Offense or defense. Flash or fundamentals.

This summer, Conroy did nothing to hurt his cause in pursuit of the starting job, and Romar took notice.

"He probably worked harder than anyone on our team this summer, and that's a real plus for me when guys put the time in because I know he's going to play hard," said the head coach.

"He's tough-minded, he's rugged, and he loves the game. (Will) has a passion for the game of basketball."

In time, that unbridled love of the roundball could propel Conroy into a starter's role once again. That's yet to be seen. This summer, though, he took steps in the right direction while pushing himself every day against some of the best players in the land.

Taking advantage of his friendship with former Seattle high school phenom, Jamal Crawford, who's now with the NBA's Chicago Bulls, Conroy joined him in Chicago to play over the summer. The Windy City is home to plenty of top-notch players and is perhaps the country's biggest hot-bed for such talent. Conroy played pickup games versus the likes of Mavericks guard-forward Michael Finley, Celtics forward Antoine Walker, and Detroit guard Chucky Atkins.

When he came back to Seattle, he continued to match up against NBA players. He went up against several Sonics, including Brent Barry, Reggie Evans, and Rashard Lewis. Still, that wasn't enough. He wanted more. So what did he do, he tried to dunk on Sonic free agent Eric Chenowith, the former Kansas star center. Conroy admitted it didn't quite work out as he had planned, but laughed about it all the while.

He also took advantage of making connections throughout the city and got keys to several gyms in the Seattle area. There, he practiced every day, making sure he had a rebounder to shag balls for him. No matter what, Conroy says he wouldn't leave the gym until he'd made 400 jumpers.

Already, it's started to pay off. He can't wait to put it to use once the season starts, claiming that he's going to "look for his shot" more this go-around.

Having Romar in charge, Conroy feels like the team has started from scratch and is heading straight to the top. After practice he remarked that he "felt it coming." He wouldn't say this year, but believes that it's definitely coming fast.

What helps is the new coaching philosophy of Romar and his staff. Romar is definitely a guards coach, and understands the game from a guard's perspective. Bender was a guard too, but coach Romar was a modern guard. He sees the game like Conroy, Allen, and Nate Robinson do.

The fiery and outspoken Conroy loves the newly found discipline on the team. He feels that the players are picking up on things well, and know their responsibilities better.

The more loose balls he chases, turnovers he creates, and leadership he shows, the quicker this team is going to understand what it's like playing Will Conroy's brand of basketball.

The sooner, the better.

Dawgman.com Top Stories