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Brandon Roy: The Path to Portland

Brandon Dawayne Roy was born July 23, 1984, to a working class family in Seattle, Washington. Roy's father, Tony, was a Metro bus driver and his mother, Gina, was a cook in an elementary school cafeteria. The couple had four children, three boys and a girl. * * *

Ed: Bumped to front page. Click through for the full read...


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Early Years

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Brandon Dawayne Roy was born July 23, 1984, to a working class family in Seattle, Washington. Roy's father, Tony, was a Metro bus driver and his mother, Gina, was a cook in an elementary school cafeteria.[1] The couple had four children, three boys and a girl.[2]

During Brandon's childhood, the Roy family managed to maintain a normal lifestyle. His father in particular worked long hours, frequently taking on overtime, in order to provide food, shelter, and clothing for the family of six.[1] For many years homeownership eluded the family, and they were sometimes forced by high Seattle rents into somewhat inadequate living spaces or to stay for a time with his grandmother on Beacon Hill in Seattle.[1] Still, Brandon never remembered his family as being mired in poverty, since basic needs and even some modest luxuries were fulfilled.[1]

Athletics wear always important in the Roy household. Brandon's dad Tony had himself been a serious basketball player in high school as a guard at Garfield High School in Seattle before entering the United States Marine Corps upon graduation.[3] Brandon played indoor soccer from the age of 5, often competing against older children, which drove him to improve his skills.[3] The early introduction to team sports was important in sending Brandon down the path of athletic competition.

"I don't remember much except that it was the most fun I ever had," Brandon later said. "I fell in love with competition. I wanted to get involved in more sports from that. It was great having a team and being competitive." [3]

Brandon also participated in organized baseball, football, basketball, track, and karate during his formative years, with his father himself often playing an active role as a team coach.[3]

Two of the Roy boys — Brandon and his older brother Edward — eventually developed into gifted athletes. Gina and Tony Roy scrimped on other things to ensure the boys were able to participate in organized sports. Brandon grew up in his brother's long shadow; it was big brother Ed more than little brother Brandon who appeared for a time to be the star athlete in the making. Brandon idolized his brother growing up.

"He was huge for my development," Brandon later recounted. " It was my Dad, Edward, and Michael Jordan as my favorite athletes. My brother was always encouraging me. If I lost or failed at something, he was always there for me. I was always trying to be like him. He was a great athlete and good at every sport."[3]

Brandon gained a certain serious-mindedness when his AAU Team Yes basketball Coach, Lou Hobson, pointed out to him the sacrifices made by his parents so that they could send him on road trips with the team with spending money in his pocket.[1]

"They don't have $100 to send you on these trips to just come out here and mess around," Hobson told Brandon — and the message hit home.[1]

"From that moment on, every time I went on an AAU trip I went out there, like, let me make the most of my parents' money," Roy later recalled. "When he told me that, it made me determined."[1]

High School Days.

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Ed, Brandon, and the the two younger Roy siblings attended James A. Garfield High School, located in Central Seattle on 23rd Avenue between East Alder and Jefferson. The school, with a preponderance  of ethnic minorities among its student body, was long a focus of Seattle's efforts at racial integration. In 1968 Garfield was changed into a so-called "magnet school" with a focus in music and science in an attempt to attract caucasian students from around the city.[4]

Success of the "magnet school" concept as an instrument for voluntary integration proved to be short-lived, however, and from the 1970s until the program's termination in 1999, Garfield was one of the targets of Seattle's racial integration program, a program which in practice generally involved the wholesale bussing of minority students to white-dominated schools in other parts of Seattle.[4] 

By Brandon's High School years mandatory bussing had been abandoned in favor of a system of open enrollments in which race was an important "tie-breaker" considered in admissions. This program itself was abandoned after Brandon's Freshman year.[4]

Following his brother, Brandon was active in Garfield athletics, honing his basketball game on the court of the Delridge Community Center and playing hoops for the Garfield team.[5] During lunchtime Brandon used to play ball with friends and teammates in the Garfield gym, developing his shooting skills through constant repetition.[6]

Brandon decided to concentrate on basketball rather than football or soccer during his junior high days at Hamilton Middle School, following the sport favored for him by his father rather than that advocated by his mother, who hoped he would pursue football.[3]

"Soccer and football were outdoors and it was too cold for me especially in Seattle. Basketball was great. It was indoors and getting new sneakers was cool too," Brandon later said. "I was getting closer to high school and I wanted to play one sport and try my best to play basketball."[3]

Although Brandon was a good basketball player, he was better at football and baseball. The challenge of improving himself in order "to prove to others I could play this sport at a high level" was appealing to him.[3]

Conveniently sprouting three inches in height in the year prior to entering high school, the now 6-foot-4-inch Brandon managed to make the Garfield High School junior varsity basketball team as a Freshman.[3] He never looked back at other team sports in which he had previously participated.[6]

Brandon worked hard on his game and managed to make the Garfield varsity basketball team as a Sophomore, a team which featured his big brother and role model Ed as its star. Brandon was nervous as a newcomer to the squad and he later remembered the pounding of his heart as he made his way to take the floor for the first time. Brandon scored 9 points in his varsity debut but was never one of the stars of the team during his first season, instead finding his place as a role player in deference to older and more experienced players.

Strange though it may seem to those more familiar with the more earthbound game of his professional years, the young Brandon Roy was an incredible jumper, renowned for his 42-inch vertical leap.[7]

"Brandon could jump higher than any other person I've ever seen on the floor," Brandon's lifetime friend Cole Allen later remembered, adding that Brandon regularly practiced spectacular high flying dunks with his schoolmates watching on in the gymnasium during lunchtime.[7]

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Brandon's varsity career was not instantly successful. He saw only limited playing time in his Sophomore year, with his minutes expanding only during the second half of the season.[7] Already dreaming of a career in the NBA, Brandon worked exhaustively on his dribbling skills and free throws during his free time.[7]

Nothing was simple. Brandon's Sophomore year on the Garfield varsity came to a painful close in the Washington State 4A Semi-Finals, held at the Tacoma Dome. With the Bulldogs down to Tacoma's Foss High School, 54-52, Brandon was fouled and sent to the free throw line with just 1.9 seconds remaining. If Brandon could sink the pair, the game was headed for overtime; instead, Brandon missed them both.

Brandon's brother Ed leaped into the lane in an attempt to put back Brandon's second miss as the horn sounded — but his tip effort rimmed out. His high school career effectively over, the Senior Ed Roy ripped off his jersey and threw it into the crowd in disgust, pulling his t-shirt up over his head to hide his bitter emotion. Ed Roy, the big wheel of the immensely talented 1999-00 Garfield team, finished with an impressive line of 15 points and 13 rebounds in the loss.[8] 

It was in his Junior year, the 2000-01 campaign, when little brother Brandon truly found his way on the Garfield varsity, developing into a team leader. Brandon put up star-caliber numbers, averaging 18.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, and emerging as a coveted blue chip college prospect.[9] By the end of the season, Roy had gained national recognition as a Top 50 college basketball prospect.[10] Scholarship offers were made by a number of schools, including one from the University of Arizona, headed by legendary coach Lute Olson.

At the end of his Junior year, Roy made the decision to stay at home, signing a national letter of intent to become a member of the University of Washington Huskies.[10] The UW was the destination of other Garfield star players, like Will Conroy, Tre Simmons, and Anthony Washington, and Brandon sought to join them down the street at the urban Seattle university.

During his Senior year of at Garfield, Roy averaged 22.3 points per game and 10.4 rebounds in leading the Bulldogs to 4th place in the Washington state 4A boys basketball tournament.[5] Roy was MVP of the KingCo Conference in both his Junior and Senior years.[5]

But all was not smooth sailing for the young swingman. It was as a player at Garfield that the injury bug first bit Brandon, with the young hoopster tearing the meniscus cartilage in his left knee for the first time.[11] Surgery put him back on the floor, but following a second injury of the left meniscus in 2006-07, the knee would come back to haunt him a decade later.

Inspired by the success of high schoolers like Tracy McGrady and Kobe Bryant making the jump from high school to the fame and fortune of pro stardom, Roy applied to become an early entry participant in the 2002 NBA draft.[10]  

Following this initial declaration, Roy worked out for only one team — the Portland Trail Blazers. Roy attended a two hour session at the Blazers' practice facility, working out one-on-one with future NBAer Boris Diaw in front of team officials.[11] The powerful Diaw took Roy to school on that day, a revelatory experience which lead the Seattle prep star to politely decline subsequent offers to come work out advanced to him by the Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors.[11]

"I was honest with myself," Roy later remembered. "Physically, I wasn't ready to go at that level. I felt I could play pro basketball, that I could play in the NBA one day, but I just had to get stronger."[11]

Roy withdrew his name from the early entry pool without attending a single draft camp and reset his sights on playing ball for the University of Washington.[10]


The University of Washington

Roydunk_mediumOnce Roy decided upon enrollment at the University of Washington, the big money or the NBA receded from his mind. "Once I took the NBA out of the picture, there was no more I have to be a millionaire," Brandon told Vibe magazine in 2006. "I started growing as a basketball player and as a mature individual off the court."[10]

There was one problem with Brandon's carefully laid plan — gaining admission to college. Like his brother Ed, Brandon had a learning disability which made reading comprehension extraordinarily difficult for him. Even though Ed had offers to attend several Division I schools on scholarships in football and basketball, the elder Roy brother had never managed to pass the Scholastic Aptitude Test for admission to college. Ed had been sidetracked into Junior College ball, where his game stagnated and his career perished at the age of 20.ª[7]  Brandon desperately sought to avoid the same fate.

Roy failed to pass muster when he first took the SAT. When Junior College was suggested as an alternative, the Roy family retained an attorney to make sure that every possible option was pursued to make allowances for Brandon's learning disability.[11] The second time he took the exam, Brandon was allowed to take the test with the aid of tutors, but the NCAA clearinghouse later disallowed the result since it had improved too much from his previous attempt.[1]

By now time was growing short. The school year arrived and basketball season approached. The results of a third effort to pass the SAT made in November 2002 were lost.[1] Brandon decided to hold off on enrolling at a Junior College and to take the SAT one final time in December, the last possible date for the year.[1] If he passed in this final try, Brandon would be able to join the Husky squad mid-season; failure would mean following his brother Ed into the possible cul-de-sac of Junior College basketball.

Ineligible for admission at UW and not wanting to be a burden upon his parents, Brandon took an entry-level job on the Seattle docks earning $11 an hour  working as a janitor cleaning bathrooms and shipping containers while he bided his time waiting for the test results to come in.[1,6]

Brandon's fourth try proved a charm, and Roy gained admission to the University of Washington for Winter Term 2002-03 on the basketball scholarship reserved for him by new Husky Head Coach Lorenzo Romar. Roy later recalled his repeated efforts to pass the SAT as "the hardest thing I had to overcome in my life."[11]

At UW, Roy majored in American Ethnic Studies.[2] He left school after four years with just two terms' worth of credits remaining for completion of his Bachelor's degree.[11]

Roy's delay in gaining admission to the University of Washington caused him to miss the first 14 games of the season. When he was finally cleared to play in the team's 15th game, Roy made it clear to Coach Romar that he had no desire to take a redshirt for the season, but rather wanted to be inserted immediately into the Huskies' rotation.[11]

Romar took Roy to the gym to try to get the new kid up to speed and was amazed at the Freshman's on-court acumen. Within just 45 minutes, Roy had learned the team's entire offense.[7] Roy's skillset was varied and well rounded — he was an excellent passer, rebounder, and defender, with an ability to score in a variety of ways.

"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,'" Brandon later remembered. "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.' "[7]

Brandon was right about that. By the last two games of the season, Roy had cracked the Huskies' starting lineup, relegating All Pac-10 Small Forward Doug Wrenn to a sixth man role.[11] Brandon's future seemed bright, with new Husky Head Coach Lorenzo Romar one of Brandon's greatest backers.

Brandon Roy was a key player for the Washington Huskies in the 2003-04 season, starting in all 31 of the team's games. Roy was on the floor for an average of over 30 minutes a game, shooting 48% from the field and just 22.2% from distance to put up 12.9 points per game.[12]

During the season Roy won Pac-10 Player of the Week honors after the Huskies made a weekend sweep of USC and UCLA.

The Huskies finished the season with a record of 19 wins and 12 losses, 12 and 6 in the Pac-10. The team made the NCAA Tournament, but lost in the 1st Round.


Junior Season 2004-05

Roy hoped to have a breakout season during his Junior year and to make the leap to the NBA afterwards. His body got in the way of his aspirations, however.

In the third game of the season, a battle between the Huskies and the Oklahoma Sooners at the Great Alaska Shootout in Anchorage, Brandon tore the meniscus in his right knee for the first time. Surgery followed.[5] The operation kept Brandon out of action for a month, causing him to miss 9 full games and parts of several others, although Roy did manage to come back to play 23 more games for UW.[13]

Although limited by his injury to just 24.2 minutes per game, Brandon managed to hit 56.5% of his shots from the field — an incredible shooting percentage for a wing player. Despite his minutes being down, Roy managed to keep his points per game number steady, finishing with an average of 12.8 for the year.[12]

The Huskies secured a berth in the NCAA Tournament and won their way to a berth into the tournament's Sweet 16, riding the pony otherwise known as Nate Robinson at Point Guard.[13]

The 6'6" Junior Wing once again considered making the leap to the NBA but ultimately decided there was unfinished business to be done for the purple and gold. Rather than coming out as the late 1st Round or early 2nd Round NBA draft selection that he was projected to be, Roy elected to return to U-Dub for his Senior year. He hoped that good health and breakout numbers would make him a lottery pick in the following year's NBA draft. The decision to return to college for a final year "do over" was a calculated risk — a gamble which was ultimately richly rewarded.


Senior Season, 2005-06 — "The Provider"

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Roy began fall practice for the Huskies 2005-06 campaign as the team's Point Guard, a position made vacant by Nate Robinson's exit the NBA.[13] The change of position from Shooting Guard to the Point was in earnest. "Point Guard is turning into my primary position," Roy noted in an interview at the time.[13]

While Head Coach Lorenzo Romar's team had true PGs on the roster, including pure shooting Florida transfer Ryan Appleby, making sure the ball was in the hands of the team's scoring leader, Brandon Roy, was of paramount concern to the coaching staff and letting Brandon carry the rock seemed an expeditious way of making that happen.[13] Romar valued both Roy's decision-making ability and his "Basketball IQ," characterizing Roy's on-court intellect as the highest on the team.[13]

"People don't understand how good Brandon Roy is," Lorenzo Romar declared at Pac-10 Media Day in Los Angeles. "I think he's one of the most underrated players in the country, and that won't last very long."[14]

Roy expressed his approval with the move to PG, declaring "I feel like I can control the tempo of a game."[13]

Roy went into the season full of confidence and setting lofty personal goals. "Going into last year, I wanted to sneak up on everybody and win those honors, and I got injured," he declared before his Senior Season. "I'm going for all the top awards. I want to be Pac-10 Player of the Year. I want to be a first-team All-American. There are a lot of things I think I can show people. As long as we're winning and I play well, I think it's possible."[14]

It did not take Brandon long to "show people." In the Pac-10 season opener December 29, 2005 against Arizona State, Roy erupted for a career-high 35 points en route to the #7 Huskies delivering a 91-67 thrashing to the visiting Sun Devils. Roy went 5-for-5 from the arc in leading his team to an 11-0 record on the year. After the game, Head Coach Lorenzo Romar was effusive. "That's why we call him 'The Provider,'" Romar declared, "he can provide what you need."[15]

In February, Roy won his second career Pac-10 Player of the Week honor following a sweep of USC and UCLA during which Roy averaged 22.5 points per game on 50% shooting and shut down Bruin star Jordan Farmar with tenacious defense.[16] Roy did not stop there, however, winning the coveted award in each of the next two weeks, becoming only the second player in Conference history to win Player of the Week honors three times in succession.[17] With his size, leadership, and athleticism, Brandon Roy was on every NBA scout's radar by the end of his breakout Senior year, in which he averaged 20.2 points per game, 19.6 in the Pac-10.

While the team soon went into a little swoon, losing a couple games in succession, the Huskies went on to have an outstanding season. The team finished strong, winning 8 games in a row en route to a 13-5 record, good for second place in the Pac-10 to Conference Champion UCLA.

In March, Roy reached his pre-season personal goals when he was named Pac-10 Player of the Year and First Team All-American. Roy was also named as a finalist for a wide array of prestigious awards, including the Wooden Award, the Naismith Award, the Oscar Robertson Trophy, and the Adolph Rupp Player of the Year.[2] Roy thus became the most decorated Husky hoopster in 53 seasons.

Roy additionally lead the Huskies to a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament and an appearance in the "Sweet 16." Roy was second in the Pac-10 in scoring and was third in field goal percentage and fourth in assists during his Senior year. Roy left the University of Washington as the schools 10th leading scorer and ranked 6th on the school's list of assists leaders.[2]

Roy's importance to the team was summarized by UW Assistant Jim Shaw, who declared "It would have been NIT — at best" without the team's star.

Roy was ready to join Seattle products Nate Robinson and Martell Webster in the NBA.


2006 Draft

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Coming into the 2006 draft, Brandon worked out extensively with 6'7" Bobby Jones. Roy attempted to downplay the estimates of those scouts who saw him as an NBA Point Guard. In a June 2006 interview, Roy declared, "I don't want to say that I am going to be just a Point Guard, because I think I can go off the ball and score, too. The best label for me would be a 'combo guard.' I think that if you Point Guard next to me I can still make plays from the Wing, and if you put a big-time scorer next to me I can get him the ball, get the Bigs the ball. So I think that's the best part of my game, I am not just a Point or just a Shooting Guard, I can do both."[18]

Expected to be one of the top 6 selections of the 2006 draft, Roy worked out in person for 5 NBA teams: Chicago, Portland, Minnesota, Charlotte, and Houston — electing not to work out for Toronto, who held the #1 selection.[18] Roy's draft stock rose dramatically during his Senior year at Washington; Roy had been projected as a late 1st Round or early 2nd Round selection in the draft of the previous year had he entered that year's pool.[18]

"That's why I always tried to stay patient, last year and the year before, it wouldn't have been like this," Roy explained at a press conference. "After coming back this season, I wouldn't have been able to be in the same company with all these lottery guys. That's something I've always wanted, and now I'm here. I'm excited."[18]

Portland coveted two players in the 2006 draft — not only Brandon Roy but a 6'11" Big who had played two years at the University of Texas, a guy named LaMarcus Aldridge. Portland held only one 1st Round pick, however, the #4 pick in the draft. The Blazers worked the phones, finally managing to land the #7 selection from Boston in a deal which sent Point Guard Sebastien Telfair and Center Theo Ratliiff to the Celts in exchange for Portland native Dan Dickau and the declining Raef LaFrentz.

Portland held two top picks, their own pick at #4 and the #7 selection which they had earlier obtained from the Boston Celtics in exchange for Point Guard Sebastien Telfair. It would take a pair of master machinations by Kevin Pritchard to turn those selections into the elite players he desired.

Big men always being at a premium in the NBA, Pritchard first set his sites upon Aldridge, believed by most observers to be one of the top 3 selections of the 2006 draft class. Pritchard arranged a draft night swap of positions with Chicago, who held the #2 pick. In exchange for the Blazers #4 choice, Portland threw in Wing Victor Khryrapa to make the deal possible. Chicago drafted Aldridge for Portland and the Blazers used their #4 selection to take the player desired by the Bulls, Power Forward Tyrus Thomas of LSU.

Then, to get Roy, Portland made a similar arrangement with the holders of the #6 pick, the Minnesota Timberwolves, choosing Randy Foye of Villanova with the 7 pick and sending him northward with a small pile of Paul Allen's cash.

On his new blog, Blazers Edge, Casey Holdahl took these machinations as proof positive that Paul Allen would not be selling the franchise. "These moves have P.Diddy's mark all over them," Holdahl declared. "Pay more to get what you want? That's not what you do when you're looking to sell."[19]

Later in the same draft, Portland used $3 Million more from Paul Allen's bankroll to purchase the #27 pick from the Phoenix Suns, with which it obtained highly-touted Spanish Point Guard Sergio Rodriguez.

The 2006 draft of Roy and Aldridge and Rodriguez laid the foundation for a fundamentally transformed Portland Trail Blazer organization and marked the effective end of the so-called "Jail Blazer" era.

The unquestionable brightest spot in a weak draft class, at the end of his first season Brandon Roy was a near-unanimous choice as NBA Rookie of the Year, garnering 127 of 128 first place votes.

"It's rare to see a rookie step in, assume a leadership role, and become a go-to guy as Brandon has this season," declared Head Coach Nate McMillan. "Brandon is a phenomenal young talent and has a chance to become a very special player in this league." [20]

 

 

Footnotes:

1 - Brian Hendrickson, "The Real Roy," The Columbian, Dec. 9, 2007.

2 - "Brandon Roy: Background," nba.com official biography. Retrieved Dec. 21, 2010.

3 - Nima Zarrabi, "Brandon Roy," Youth Fitness Magazine, June 17, 2009.

4 - Cassandra Tate, "Busing in Seattle: A Well-Intentioned Failure," HistoryLinked.org/, Sept. 7, 2002.

5 - "Brandon's Tale," broy7.com, official website. Retrieved Dec. 21, 2010.

6 - "Brandon Roy: RISE Flashback," ESPN RISE magazine, republished March 2, 2010.

7 - Eric McHenry, "Brandon Roy: No Ceiling," Columns magazine, University of Washington, March 7, 2008.

8 - Danny O'Neil, "Garfield, Franklin Fall to Tacoma Schools in Semis," Seattle Times, March 11, 2000.

9 - "Brandon Roy: Profile," University of Washington Athletic Department official web site, gohuskies.com/ Retrieved Dec. 22, 2010.

10 - Chris Yuscavage with Eric Merentette, "Pro Tools," Vibe, Nov. 2006, pp. 114-115.

11- Dan Raley, "UW's Roy Emerges from Layaway with Total Package," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 15, 2006.

12 - "#3 Brandon Roy," StatSheet.com/ Retrieved Dec. 25, 2010.

13 - Bob Condotta, "Brandon Roy's Versatility Being Put to the Test at Point," Seattle Times, Oct. 27, 2005.

14 - Dan Raley, "Brandon Roy Played a Supporting Role Last Season. Now It's His Turn to Shine," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Nov. 10, 2005.

15 - Bob Condotta, "Roy Scores Career-High 35, Helps UW Pull Away from ASU," Seattle Times, Dec. 30, 2005.

16 - Bob Condotta, "Roy Named Pac-10 Player of the Week," Seattle Times, Feb. 14, 2006.

17 - Dan Raley, "Roy Gets Rare Three-peat as Pac-10 Award Winner," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Feb. 28, 2006.

18 - Brandon Roy, "Interview at Pre-Draft Media Day, Part 1," DraftExpress.com/ June 10, 2006.

19 - Casey Holdahl ("Lance Uppercut"), "Draft Live Blog," Blazers Edge, June 28, 2006.

20 - "Roy is Near Unanimous," Jet, May 21, 2007 pg. 50.

 

 

Here's a Brandon Roy highlight video of his 2005-06 Pac-10 Player of the Year season at Washington.

 

 

Photo Credits: Tony Roy: Meryl Schenker, Seattle Post-Intelligencer. James A. Garfield HS: Connor P. Lee, Wikipedia, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5. Ed Roy: Meryl Schenker, Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Roy in Purple: Francis Specker, Associated Press. Roy Dunking: University of Washington Athletic Department. Brandon During Draft Week: Davej1006, Wikipedia, pubic domain release. All images heavily tweaked in Photoshop by Tim Davenport.

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