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Will Conroy, one of the most popular players in Washington men’s basketball history, is returning to the Huskies.

The 32-year-old former UW great was hired Thursday as an assistant on Lorenzo Romar’s coaching staff.

It’s a move that will likely score points with Huskies fans who credit Conroy, the team’s all-time assists leader, as one of the stalwarts who helped revive a dormant program and elevate Washington to a Pac-12 conference powerhouse a decade ago.

“Coach Romar is like a father figure to me,” Conroy said in a statement released by the school. “He’s someone I’ve wanted to model myself after because he does everything the right way. This is a unique opportunity since I’ve played for him and we had success here during that time. I know how he thinks and what he likes and doesn’t like, which I believe will be beneficial to the program. I am thankful to the University and to coach Romar for giving me the opportunity to be here.”

It’s been 10 years since Conroy last wore his No. 5 jersey at Alaska Airlines Arena and the Huskies, who have missed the NCAA tournament the past four years, are in similar disarray as they were in 2001 when he first joined the team.

Back then he was a 6-foot-2 point guard from Garfield High, who declined scholarship offers and chose to walk on at Washington. He received a scholarship before the first day of class, played all 29 games as a freshman and won the starting job with seven games remaining in the 2001-02 season. The fiesty, ultra-competitive gym rat starred defensively and quickly became a fan favorite because of his daring, aggressive and physical style of play.

When Romar replaced Bob Bender the next season, Conroy’s career blossomed.

He averaged a career-best 12.7 points as a sophomore, which was nearly a 10-point increase from the previous year. As a junior, Conroy averaged 12.3 points, played in all 31 games – including 25 stars – and helped the Huskies to their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1999, which snapped a five-year drought.

Conroy, a two-year captain, embraced a playmaking role as a senior when he averaged 9.4 points and 6.4 assists. He dished out a school-record 219 assists and moved to the top of UW’s all-time assists list with 515. The Huskies finished 29-6 in 2004-05, which tied the school record for most wins. Washington won its first Pac-10 Tournament title, received a No. 1 seed to the NCAA tournament and advanced to the Sweet 16.

Conroy had brief stints with several NBA teams during a nine-year professional career. During the 2006-07 season, he played three games with Memphis and four with the Los Angeles Clippers. He also appeared in five games during the 2009-10 season with Houston and played four games with Minnesota in 2012-13.

Conroy played with three NBA Development teams (Tulsa, Albuquerque and Rio Grande) and international squads in Italy, China, Turkey and most recently Germany in 2014.

Conroy replaces T.J. Otzelberger, who left UW after two years to return to Iowa State where he’s a candidate for the head-coaching position.

“We are thrilled to have Will Conroy join our basketball staff,” Romar said. “As we talk about re-establishing our culture, he is a former player that really embodied that culture. He has always wanted to coach and has a tremendous passion for the game along with great ties to the Seattle community.”

Critics may argue it’s risky for Romar to give a spot on the staff to a first-time coach with no experience. In 2010, he hired former UW player Jamaal Williams – a Conroy teammate – as a graduate assistant for a season. This week, Arizona filled a vacancy on its staff with Mark Phelps, the former Drake coach who spent last season as an assistant at Marquette.

Still, Conroy has ties to the Huskies and the Seattle basketball community unlike anyone on the UW staff that includes Raphael Chillious and Brad Jackson.

He’s been a frequent participant in local hoops tournaments and a Seattle basketball ambassador who is friends with NBA stars Jamal Crawford and Isaiah Thomas. Conroy potentially strengthens the Huskies’ connection to inner-city high schools such as Garfield, Rainier Beach, Franklin and the AAU summer basketball team Seattle Rotary.

Hiring Conroy makes sense for Romar who recently shifted tactics and returned to a recruiting strategy that prioritizes in-state prospects. The Huskies brought in a highly-ranked 2015 recruiting class highlighted by Seattle-area standouts Dejounte Murray, Matisse Thybulle, David Crisp and Dominic Green.

“I can’t wait to start working with both the returning guys and our new group coming in,” Conroy said. “I’ve seen a lot of the incoming freshmen play since so many are from the Seattle area and they’re an extremely talented group. It’s a great class of very, very athletic guys that will be fun for Husky fans to watch and the fact that most of them are from here is going to be a great thing for our program.”

A generation ago, Conroy, Brandon Roy, Nate Robinson and Tre Simmons, were Seattle-area prep stars who led Washington’s first run to greatness under Romar that included three straight NCAA tournaments trips.

Conroy has two children, William Jr. (4) and Madison (1) and is engaged to Tanika Latte. He’s pursuing an undergraduate degree at UW and school officials expect he’ll complete his studies in December.

CONROY’S UW STATISTICS

Year GP/GS PPG APG TOG RPG MPG FG% 3-FG% FT%
01-02 29/7 2.5 1.6 1.9 1.6 12.5 .343 .333 .636
02-03 27/27 12.7 4.0 3.1 3.6 28.7 .456 .397 .757
03-04 31/25 12.3 4.6 2.5 2.6 26.9 .450 .316 .712
04-05 34/34 9.4 6.4 2.8 3.3 30.8 .456 .303 .761

IN OTHER NEWS

— Former Florida signee Noah Dickerson, a 6-8 power forward and four-star 2015 prospect, is making a two-day visit to Washington that begins Thursday. The Atlanta native plans to take a recruiting trip to California this weekend and could make a college choice between the Pac-12 rivals early next week.

— Green, who signed with Washington in April, is also taking an official two-day visit to UW that starts Thursday.