No Ceiling: Don't Expect Too Little of Brandon Roy Print
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No Ceiling: Don't Expect Too Little of Brandon Roy
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“That really kind of raised our eyebrows,” recalls Floyd, now principal of Seattle’s Cleveland High School. “It’s one of those things where you don’t even jump out of your seat. You just kind of sit there thinking, ‘Did I just see that?’ I looked at our junior varsity coach, and I’m like, ‘Um, you’ve been hiding and hoarding this guy all year, man?’ ”

Brandon Roy
Following a Feb. 1 victory over the New York Knicks, Roy chats with the fans as part of the UWAA's Husky Night with the Portland Trail Blazers. Photo by Kyle Funakoshi.
Roy, for his part, says he always knew he had a special talent, and that developing it—rather than coasting on it or boasting about it—was his top priority. While the other kids at the Delridge Community Center were rehearsing buzzer-beaters, he was working on his dribbling and free throws. “I always felt like I was going to make it to the NBA,” he says. “And I was serious about it. I would work at my game all the time. And I would always ask people, ‘What do I need to work on? What do I need to get better?’ I understood criticism, and I accepted it. Because I knew it would only help me get to the level that I wanted to be at.”

By his junior year at Garfield, Roy says, he felt “ready to take over,” and he did, scoring nearly 19 points a game and leading the Bulldogs to a 27–2 record. After an even stronger senior season, he decided to enter his name in the NBA draft. But a workout with—of all teams—the Blazers convinced him that he wasn’t ready to compete at that level, so he withdrew and accepted a basketball scholarship from the UW.

In doing so, Roy prepared to join fellow Garfield grads Will Conroy and Anthony Washington and Rainier Beach product Nate Robinson in a mass migration up 23rd Avenue to Montlake. Increasingly, rather than departing for the nation’s elite basketball programs, local legends were choosing to stay home and help build one at the UW. “It’s hard for me to understand why people leave the state so much,” Roy told The Daily at the time. “Why not make the place where you grew up a good team?”

Before he could get started, though, there was one more big number he’d need to put up: a qualifying SAT score. Roy suffers from a learning disability that makes timed tests extraordinarily difficult, and his first attempt at the SAT fell short. Working with tutors, Roy retook the test late in his senior year, and this time his score shot up so dramatically that officials flagged the result as suspicious. Just as Roy was preparing to start fall classes at the UW, word arrived that the NCAA had declared him ineligible. Suddenly, a young man with his sights set on a multi-million-dollar NBA contract found himself hosing out shipping containers at the Port of Seattle for $11 an hour. “I was a nobody,” he told the Seattle Times a couple of years ago. “I was that guy they said, ‘What happened to Brandon Roy? He’s another guy who failed.’ ”

Those months were especially demoralizing for Roy, he says, because he’d just seen his brother go through the same thing. Coming out of Garfield, Ed Roy had scholarship offers from Division I schools in both football and basketball. But he also had a learning disability—and unlike Brandon’s, it had gone undiagnosed until his senior year. Academics, for Ed, proved too big a barrier, and he hung up his basketball shoes at the age of 20. Brandon decided he wasn’t going to let history repeat itself. He’d work at the shipping-container plant every morning, then come home and prep for the test with a personal tutor. “Just him and the tutor every day,” Cole Allen recalls. “I’d come by to see if he wanted to do this or that, and I know he wanted to. But he was just thinking ahead. And it paid off.”

After the NCAA flagged the SAT scores, Roy’s parents encouraged him to “make [the NCAA] flag you again,” and sure enough, his third SAT score proved to be his highest. On January 16, 2003—the day of the Huskies’ home game against Cal—Roy sat in the UW players’ lounge nervously awaiting word from Coach Lorenzo Romar on the NCAA’s verdict. When the coach finally summoned Roy to his office he seemed distracted, and Roy feared the worst. Then Romar spoke: “I’m trying to figure out if we can get you a uniform for tonight.”