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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Roy spent much of his collegiate career hobbled by injuries and upstaged by more dynamic players like Nate Robinson, the spring-loaded guard who would later take his airshow to Madison Square Garden for the New York Knicks. In his first three years, Roy never averaged more than 13 points a game.

But if you ask coach Romar when he first realized Roy was the best player on the team, he’ll hold up a massive index finger: “Day one.”

"When he joined us in January of his freshman year, we took him up to the gym and he learned our offense in 45 minutes,” Romar recalls. “High basketball IQ. He can handle the ball. Athletic. From day one we knew.”

Roy could do it all—score, rebound, distribute, defend. But the hallmarks of his game were anticipation, unselfishness, hustle and heart—the qualities collectively known as “the intangibles.” “My dad used to tell me, ‘If you want to stay on the floor and play, you’ve got to be able to do the intangibles,’” Roy says. “And I’ve watched guys who can score great in high school but get to college and struggle. And I always said, ‘Well, if I can develop every aspect of my game, coach is going to have to play me.’ ”

Brandon Roy
When he's not schooling the visitors, Roy is visiting the schools. NBAE/Getty Images.
Of course there were some tangible signs of Roy’s promise, too, for those willing to look closely. Season after season, he would hit more than half of his shots. His junior year, he nailed 56.5 percent of them—the second-best percentage in the Pac-10, and a level of efficiency unheard of in a guard.

Roy thought seriously about jumping to the NBA after three years, but decided “there was still more I needed to show” and stuck around for one more campaign. The result may be as close to a perfect season as a Husky has ever had. Roy was a First-Team All-American and a runaway winner of the Pac-10 Player of the Year honor, leading the conference in scoring and finishing among the top 10 in a shocking 10 of 13 statistical categories. In the NCAA tournament, he propelled the Huskies to their second straight Sweet 16 appearance, schooling a higher-seeded Illinois team along the way in a classic contest. Roy drew three defenders the whole game and still managed to tally 21 points.

“After the game,” Romar remembers, “their coaches, one by one, came up to me and said, ‘Lorenzo, we watched the film. We watched him play. We knew he was really good, and we prepared to stop him. But we didn’t know he was that good—that you can’t stop him.’”

Brandon Roy
In his senior year, Roy led the Pac-10 conference in a shocking 10 of 13 statistical categories. Photo by Brian Spurlock.
Roy was flying high—and yet he still seemed, somehow, to be flying under the radar. His name didn’t really come up in conversations about the national Player of the Year awards, which tended to center on big-time scorers Adam Morrison of Gonzaga and J.J. Redick of Duke. Even the unqualified praise Roy received from NBA big shots had a tepid quality to it. They seemed less interested in his ability than his stability. After a workout with the Charlotte Bobcats, Roy wondered whether he was being groomed for some sort of junior-executive position. “They said they were excited about me, because I was a good person and that I was a nice guy,” he told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “I was laughing and I asked them, ‘But what about my workout?’” Ultimately, Roy was selected sixth in a draft that everyone seemed to agree was underwhelming. Few people, it’s safe to say, saw his rookie season coming.

Roy put the league on notice with his first NBA game—a homecoming victory against the Seattle SuperSonics in which he scored 20 points. Despite missing nearly a quarter of the season with an ankle injury, Roy held down averages of 16.8 points and 4 assists a game, leading all rookies in both categories. He also established himself as the Blazers’ go-to player in clutch situations. Almost immediately, he became the prohibitive favorite for Rookie of the Year. (In the press, the fact that his last name was an acronym for “Rookie of the Year” only added to the sense of inevitability.) On May 7, 2007, the NBA announced that he had received 127 of 128 first-place votes.

“I’m not a big I-told-you-so guy,” Romar says, “but it definitely confirmed what we knew over here. … In speaking to NBA people when he was a senior, I remember specifically telling someone that they needed to take a look at drafting Brandon. And the comment was, ‘We need veterans.’ And I said, ‘By January he will be a veteran.’”