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January 21, 2009

Roy to write final chapter as a Husky

Thursday night, the legacy of Brandon Roy will be forever vaulted into the rafters of Bank of America Arena and into the minds of Husky nation.

Roy will become only the second Husky to have his jersey retired, as his No. 3 will be raised along side the No. 25 of Bob Houbregs.

A product of Seattle's Garfield High School, Roy's basketball career is a story born in the Northwest, of a young man overcoming limitations, ignoring temptations of fame and ultimately reaching his goal of being a Husky great. This is a story still being written only hours south of his alma mater, down the I-5 corridor in Portland.

But Thursday night the final chapter will be inked in what can now be considered a legendary career at the University of Washington.

"I know his jersey needed to be retired," explained Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar. "You're talking about a guy that was here for four years and was a part of three consecutive NCAA Tournament teams. I don't think in the history of this program, anyone has been involved in more then three. He was the player of the year in our conference his senior year and also a first-team All-American. There's just not many that have got that done.

"In Brandon's situation, there wasn't much discussion or debate," said Romar. "it was going to get done, it was only a matter of when."

Everyone in Seattle knew the name Brandon Roy after he earned the KingCo League MVP as a junior at Garfield. The nation began to learn about the talented guard after he averaged 22.3 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, leading his team to a fourth place finish in the Class 4A state tournament, while earning league MVP honors for a second time as a senior.

The hype around Roy became so great, that he entered his name into the 2002 NBA draft. He never hired an agent or attended any pre-draft camps, and would eventually withdraw his name to focus on forging a career at the University of Washington.

The journey didn't start with ease however, as a learning disability forced Roy to retake the SAT's multiple times before earning a qualifying score. In fact, his college future was so much in doubt, that he took a job at the local Seattle docks, cleaning shipping containers until it became clear he could begin to pursue his dream.

But once on campus, it didn't take long for Romar to know he had something special in Roy.

"When we found out he was eligible to play - to see how excited he was - that was special," expressed Romar. "When we found out he was eligible to play, we took him over to the gym and taught him the offense. It was January and guys were struggling to figure it out, but he learned it in 45 minutes. I thought, 'man this is a pretty bright guy'."

Roy averaged 17.2 minutes in his first season, scoring 6.1 points and grabbing 2.9 rebounds per game. As a sophomore, he quickly became one of the Huskies' go-to guys, leading the team in minutes and rebounds with 30.2 and 5.3 respectively, and was second in points and assists, with 12.9 and 3.3. Suddenly, a star was born. That season, the Huskies finished second in Pac-10, their best result since 1986, earning a trip to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1999.

As a junior, Roy faced a setback after a meniscus tear in his right knee forced him to the bench.

"He handled coming off the bench better then 99 percent of players of his caliber would have," explained Romar.

In a limited role, Roy still managed to average 12.8 points and 4.9 rebounds per game, good for third and second on the team respectfully. More importantly, he was a steady leader that helped carry Washington to only it's third Sweet-Sixteen appearance and first since 1998.

As a senior, all of the selflessness, hard work and talent culminated into the greatest individual season in Husky history.

"You go back and check the record books and look at the accomplishments of every player that has put on a Husky uniform, and see if they matched the year Brandon Roy had," said Romar.

Roy led the Pac-10 in scoring at 20.2 points per game, and finished in the top-10 of the Pac-10 in 13 statistical categories. For his efforts, Roy earned Pac-10 Player of the Year and first-team All-American honors.

The numbers also translated into wins, as Washington advanced to a second-straight Sweet-Sixteen appearance for the first time in school history. Against a very good Illinois team, Roy was on display for all of the country to see. He made it count, scoring a game-high 21 points, while also grabbing a team-high seven rebounds in the 67-64 win.

"After we played Illinois in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2006, their coaches, one-by-one, found me in the hallway," explained Romar. "They said we scouted him, we watched his film, we knew all about him, we dissected his game and we thought we were ready, but we had no idea how good he was until we actually played against him. I thought that was a pretty special compliment for a special player."

Roy was not only special on the court, but off. The way he handled the media, his teammates, the fame and accolades, all made for an intriguing NBA prospect.

The Minnesota Timberwolves made him the sixth overall selection in the 2006 NBA Draft, before trading him to the Portland Trailblazers for Randy Foye. Roy's professional career started where it all began, in his home town against the Seattle SuperSonics.

Roy put up 20 points in his debut, in what was a sign of things to come. Roy finished the 2006-07 season as the league's top rookie scorer with 14.5 points per game, earning him the NBA Rookie of the Year Award. In his sophomore campaign, Roy put up gaudy numbers, averaging 19.7 points, 5.8 assists and 4.6 rebounds.

Roy's presence is still being felt amongst the current players. Both Jon Brockman and Justin Dentmon played quality minutes as freshmen alongside Roy, and his leadership qualities rubbed off.

"There were numerous things that I learned from him from a leadership standpoint," said Brockman. "He really set a great example as a senior for me as a freshman, of how things are done in this program. The way he treated the younger players and showed them what it means to be a Husky, is something I really took away from him."

Now an NBA star, Roy returns home to put the final touches on a college career that will never be forgotten.

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