Brandon Roy orchestrates the chaos that is Washington basketball. He makes sense out of madness.
He had watched Julius Hodge, the North Carolina State All-American, strike the Heisman pose during his last game and claim he was the best player in the country.
Brandon Roy watched and wondered. Would his chance at national recognition slip away? Was he or wasn’t he as good as Hodge?
All the comparisons had been made with his teammate, Nate Robinson.
Roy was just healthy enough last week three weeks after knee surgery to get cleared for action. His first post-surgery assignment was to play the part of Hodge in two practices.
But yesterday, with three minutes left, the crowd roaring and the Huskies ahead by three, it was time for Brandon Roy to defend Julius Hodge.
It didn’t matter that moments before yesterday’s wonderful intersectional battle at Edmundson Pavilion, in which Washington prevailed 68-64, Roy had told his coach to “use me only in an emergency.”
For the program’s national reputation, to stay ranked, to just about get its ticket punched for the NCAA tournament, it was an emergency.
Roy took Hodge off a screen.
“I didn’t call a switch,” Roy said, “but Tre Simmons knew I wanted him.
“I said to myself, ‘No matter what happens, I’m not going to let this guy get by me.’ “
Hodge darted right, then left, then right again, each move countered by Roy. Finally, in desperation, Hodge tried to spin away from Roy but fell on his back and lost the ball.
“He made a couple of moves and I beat him to every punch,” said Roy. “I was just quicker and faster at that point in the game.
“I mean, he’s on the ground and I’m standing over him. It was a great moment.”
When Roy gingerly took the floor last Thursday, Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar had no idea he could play against the Wolfpack, a team unbeaten and ranked No. 9 in the ESPN/USA Today poll.
“In practice, Brandon was so quick,” Romar said. “I thought, ‘Wait a minute, he might be able to play.’ “
But then Roy felt some soreness before the game. And some jitters. He wasn’t sure. He begged off.
Romar asked him if he wanted to try. Roy played a few minutes, came out, left the court to ride an exercise bike and returned to pronounce himself ready to go.
Storming down the court halfway through the second half, Roy gave the ball up to Mike Jensen and then got it back for a thunderous dunk.
He was back. He scored 10 second-half points in 14 second-half minutes, making 5 of 5 shots. He jammed a ball in with his left hand. He defended Hodge on the game’s final play. He had three rebounds, two steals and a block.
Simmons, who took Roy’s place the five games he missed, sensed what was happening that first day Roy was back at practice. He had played against Hodge last year. And he knew Roy was no Julius Hodge.
“Brandon is way more talented,” Simmons said. “He can shoot from the outside, he is more aggressive. Brandon is a pro, to tell you the truth.”
Roy orchestrates the chaos that is Washington basketball. He makes sense out of madness.
“He can do everything,” Romar said. “He finishes, he makes the pass, he rebounds, and he is a much better on-the-ball defender than anyone gives him credit for.
“He has an extraordinarily high basketball IQ,” Romar continued. “He sees into the future when he is playing. He knows the game as well as any coach and is always in the right spot.”
Roy said he never got depressed during his convalescence from knee surgery. Nor did he think it would lessen his chances to take an early shot at the NBA, if it comes to that.
“There are enough games and enough minutes in the season for the NBA to say, ‘This kid is ready,’ or not,” he said. “When they say I’m ready, then that will be the decision. But right now we have too much responsibility to our team and the fans to think about anything else than this season.”
The Huskies are good because they run at Nate Robinson’s speed, play with Bobby Jones’ energy and play with Lorenzo Romar’s resolve.
But they weren’t as good at passing the ball as N.C. State was. They had more turnovers and fewer assists.
Robinson was taken out of his game by N.C. State’s defense and his own foul trouble. The Huskies made only 2 of 13 shots from beyond the three-point arc.
But still they won.
“I don’t know what would have happened if we didn’t have Brandon,” Romar said.
Roy is Washington’s most complete player. The Huskies already knew that, but now more of the nation does.
“Julius Hodge is a great player,” Roy said. “But tonight, I showed I was one of those.”
He certainly did.