In honor of Brandon Roy and his #3 jersey, we present this week’s Top 11, a special edition featuring the Top 3 Moments in Brandon Roy’s Husky career. Today is his day, we hope you enjoy it.
3. February 26, 2006; vs. California; 27 points/5 rebounds/2 assists/1 steal. Brandon Roy’s final home game at the University of Washington and from the very get-go #3 was overshadowed by two big story lines that loomed over Hec Ed. First, it was Senior Night, meaning that Roy was sharing the spotlight with his fellow seniors: Mike Jensen, Bobby Jones, Zane Potter, and Jamaal Williams. Second, Leon Powe, California’s superstar power forward, was in town to partake in a heavyweight grudge match with Roy for the title of Pac-1o Player of the Year. Powe, the conference’s leading scorer entering the contest, held a slight edge in the press as to who the most deserving candidate for POY truly was. Roy, however, would quickly change that.
Once the game got underway, it was clear that this was just not Leon Powe’s day. When he wasn’t committing fouls, he was turning the ball over, and when he wasn’t doing either of those two things he appeared frustrated and out of control. B-Roy, meanwhile, took control of the game, refusing to falter while playing on his home court for the final time. The game remained close, with the score 33-29 in Washington’s favor at halftime.
A quiet first half turned into an explosive second for Brandon, as he scored 19 of his 27 points in the latter frame. While Powe began losing composure down the stretch, Brandon seemed to gain more of it, knocking down a pair of dagger threes late in the game as he carried his Husky team to a 73-62 victory.
In a twisting tale of two players headed in different directions, Powe did not speak to the media after the game, instead heading straight from the locker room to the team bus. Brandon, meanwhile, was handed a microphone and urged to speak by head coach Lorenzo Romar. Standing amidst a crowd of senior students invited onto the court by Romar, Roy thanked his family, fellow players, and the fans for their support during his time at UW. Acknowledging a student section that had recently been given a healthy dose of national press (including a ranking of eighth-best student section in the nation, courtesy of Sports Illustrated), Roy told fans, “I don’t really care what ESPN or Sports Illustrated ranks our fans, you guys are number one in my mind.” How can you not like a guy who says that? Just another day at the office for Brandon Roy.
2. December 31, 2005; vs. Arizona; 35 points/11 rebounds/4 assists/1 block/1 steal. To spare those of you with fuzzy memories any unnecessary pain (because this is supposed to be a happy occasion, after all), let me just get this out of the way right now: we lost. Not only did we lose, but the defeat broke a 32-game home winning streak for the Dawgs, and sent the team to a 1-1 record in only their second conference game of the year.
Despite the setback, the day still belonged to Brandon Roy. B-Roy tied his career-high with 35 points, to lead all scorers. He registered a double-double by hauling in 11 rebounds, as well. But most impressive were his late-game heroics. With fifteen seconds remaining in regulation and the Huskies down by three, Roy acted as point guard, bringing the ball up court on a play that would end up going awry. With the ball in his hands and time expiring, Roy looked for Mike Jensen–the man whom the play was designed for–but he was blanketed by a defender. Calmly and coolly, Roy reached into his back pocket for Plan B. Plan B turned out to be a 25-foot three-pointer that tied the game, sending the sold-out crowd of 10,000 into a roaring frenzy and the contest into overtime.
The first overtime period played out as gritty and turbulent as regulation. Like deja vu, the same scenario seemed to be threading its way into the fabric of the game. With five seconds remaining in the extra period, Washington was once again down by three points with the ball in Roy’s hands. He took a couple dribbles, then fired a 35-foot leaner that graced nothing but the bottom of the net as the buzzer sounded. Immediately embraced in a bear hug by teammates, Roy yet again brought the crowd to a fever pitch. Fans were in disbelief, players were in disbelief, coaches, announcers, ushers, everyone. Brandon Roy had knocked down two last-second shots to keep Washington alive. It was unheard of.
In the second overtime, the day simply was not to be. Roy fouled out with 54 seconds remaining. The lead exchanged hands multiple times, but in the end a single free-throw proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Arizona won 96-95 on a day that, in the annals of Husky history, won’t be remembered as much of a defeat at all.
B-Roy would later christen his 35-foot, game-tying three-pointer a “blessing.” Lorenzo Romar labeled Roy’s performance “phenomenal.” However, it was the enemy who summed it up best. In offering his thoughts on Roy’s performance that day, Arizona head coach Lute Olson issued one sentence: “Brandon Roy was unbelievable.”
NC State, ranked 12th in the nation, came to Seattle as part of a home-and-home series with Washington. The Dawgs, ranked 18th in the nation, had traveled to Raleigh the season prior and suffered defeat at the hands of the Wolfpack. A hungry North Carolina State team, led by star swingman Julius Hodge, was looking to make a statement on the road. The Huskies, likely without Brandon Roy, were seeking vengeance.
Before the game began, rumors were circulating that Roy might play. He had undergone surgery for a torn meniscus just 20 days earlier and was projected to be out four-to-six weeks beyond that point. A return less than three weeks after surgery was certainly unprecedented and would be nothing short of remarkable.
The speculation regarding Roy’s potential return was fueled by a week of practice, in which the Husky star replicated the role of NC State’s Hodge against the quintet of starters. The rumors quickly turned into tempered optimism when a noticeably gimpy Roy emerged for the pre-game shootaround in uniform. The buzz remained even as the starting lineup was announced, minus Roy. Brandon would play only on a “need” basis, it seemed.
It became clear early on that the Dawgs would need Brandon Roy. NC State held an early lead, and wasn’t planning on going away. With that, Lorenzo Romar turned to his leader and sent him into the game late in the first half. As soon as #3 emerged from the UW bench, a cheer erupted from the student section that quickly spread throughout the arena. By the time Roy checked into the game, knee brace and all, fans were on their feet applauding the gutsy return of their hero.
Roy would later admit that he was in a lot of pain, but you wouldn’t have known it watching him play. In just 18 minutes of game action, most coming in the second half, he notched 10 points on 5-5 shooting. Despite a one-point halftime deficit, Roy began willing his team back to life as the game transpired. He took his chances defending Hodge, who would finish with 15 points. He grabbed three rebounds. He deferred shot opportunities he would normally take. But he was out there. That’s all the team, and the 10,000 fans present, needed to win.
Late in the second half, Brandon brought all those in attendance to a surging apex when he tested his repaired knee by following a Tre Simmons miss with a thunderous tip-in dunk, sending a message loud and clear: We will not lose this game. Roy’s dunk fed the crowd, which fed the team, which took over down the stretch to upset the Wolfpack. A 68-64 Washington victory.
After the game, Roy acknowledged the emotion of his return. “I was nervous before going in,” he said, “and then the coaches talked me into going in. I love our fans and there is no better feeling than walking on the floor and hearing those fans cheering for you. They let me know they loved me as much as I love them.”
It was beautiful. It characterized everything about Brandon Roy that we ever loved. He was gutsy. He was deferent. He was respectful. He was gracious. He was appreciative. He was a leader, a role model, a performer. He played for us, his fans. He played for Washington, his school. He played because he loved to play, not because he had to play, not because he was good at playing. There will never be another #3 in the history of University of Washington basketball. More importantly, there will never be another Brandon Roy. The jersey may rise to the rafters, but the man will never truly leave the court. As ingrained as the fibers that comprise the playing surface that thousands of Huskies will set foot on in the years to come, Brandon Roy will now and forever be the heart and soul of University of Washington basketball.
California and Arizona photos courtesy GoHuskies.com; NC State photo courtesy MaxWaugh.com.