ILLINOIS GUARDDee Brown is both a night owl and a hoops junkie, which is why he was ahead ofthe curve in recognizing the multifaceted talent of Washington's Brandon Roy.During the regular season Brown often stayed up past midnight, searching outcollege games on television, and he would sometimes find Roy out on the WestCoast, slicing and dicing opponents like a gadget on one of the late-nightinfomercials that were playing on other channels. "I could see right awayhe was a player, and he could do so many things," Brown said before facinghim last Saturday in the second round of the NCAA tournament in San Diego."You don't need to tell me how good Brandon Roy is."
Much of the restof the country, however, had not been brought up to speed on Roy until hisunveiling in the tournament. He had 28 points, five assists and three steals inthe fifth-seeded Huskies' 75-61 first-round win over No. 12 seed Utah State,then topped that with a brilliant all-around performance in a 67-64 win overIllinois, the fourth seed. In addition to his 21 points, seven rebounds andthree assists, Roy, a 6'6" senior guard, helped harass Brown into missing13 of 18 shots. The victory sent the Huskies into the Sweet 16, where they willmeet UConn on Friday in Washington, D.C. "Brandon was everywhere tonight,doing a little of everything," said Washington coach Lorenzo Romar afterthe Illinois game.
Now that peopleoutside the Pacific time zone know who he is, there is a growing sentiment thatRoy, the Pac-10 player of the year, should be mentioned along with Duke's J.J.Redick and Adam Morrison of Gonzaga in the debate over who is collegebasketball's best player. "[Roy] doesn't average as many points as thoseguys, but he has just as big an effect on the game because of all the things hedoes," says Washington forward Bobby Jones.
UConn will have ahard time containing Roy because of his varied skills. Illinois tried to wearhim down with physical contact, but Roy attacked the basket and made the Illinipay from the foul line. If Connecticut takes away his penetration, he caninflict damage from outside; he has shot 40% from beyond the arc this season.Because of Roy's strength, his defensive prowess and his ability to penetrate,pass, post up and hit the outside jumper, his game is similar to DetroitPistons point guard Chauncey Billups's. "Brandon might be underrated bysome people," says Romar, "but not by the people looking for playersfor the next level."
There was a timewhen Roy relished his anonymity. A highly regarded hometown recruit fromSeattle's Garfield High, he failed three times to get the minimum SAT scorerequired for eligibility, which kept him from joining the Huskies until thesecond semester of his freshman year. He worked as a janitor in a shippingplant while he waited to become eligible, and he tried to dodge inquiring fansat home games. "I'd sit way high up in the stands, hoping nobody wouldnotice me," he says.
He brieflyconsidered skipping college entirely, but after a tough workout with the TrailBlazers he decided he wasn't ready for the NBA. He again contemplated going proearly after last season but opted to return for his senior year to improve hisdraft stock. That decision looks like a smart move because Roy seems far morelikely to be a first-round draft pick than he was a year ago. For now, however,he is less concerned with his NBA future than with getting his team beyond theSweet 16, which is where the Huskies were eliminated last season.
"More peopleare seeing me now than at any other time in my career, and that's great,"Roy said after the victory over the Illini. "But this is about winning, notabout my proving anything to the scouts." Then again, there is one othertalent Roy would like to show off before his college career is over: He thinkshe would be pretty good at cutting down a net.