SAN DIEGO — The comparisons, like Dee Brown himself, only reach so far.
"First of all, he's like 6-6 and I'm like 5-11," said Brown, the Illinois point guard, when asked a question Friday about the seeming similarities between himself and Washington's Brandon Roy.
Still, review the path that has led each to this moment — today's second-round NCAA tournament game between Washington and Illinois here at Cox Arena today at 2:30 p.m. — and the footprints look much the same, save the size of the shoe.
Brown, like Roy, planned for his junior season to be his last after helping lead the Illini to one of the best seasons in school history — Illinois advanced to the national-title game before losing to North Carolina, going 37-2.
Like Roy, it was an injury that caused him to reconsider — Brown broke a foot while attending the NBA's predraft camp last June.
Like Roy, he returned to find three starting teammates gone — including guards Deron Williams and Luther Head, each now in the NBA — and himself suddenly looked upon as the elder statesman of a re-made squad.
And like Roy, Brown only further cemented his place in school history by leading that team to the doorstep of the Sweet 16 yet again.
"We both play with a lot to prove," said Roy. "People felt that once Deron and Luther left that Illinois may be down. But he came back to say, 'I'm still here, I can lead these guys back.' That's somewhat the same mentality I had. I came back knowing we lost Nate [Robinson], we lost Tre [Simmons] but I felt like 'I'm still here. We can still do some special things.' "
If there's a difference, Roy says, it's that his knee injury — suffered in November 2004 — gave him more time to come to grips with the fact that he'd probably have to return.
"There definitely is a time where you can sulk, and then you have to turn the page and say, 'I'm going to go after this 100 percent so I can put myself back in the position to accomplish all of those dreams,' " Roy said. "I definitely had to go through it and I'm sure he did, too."
In fact, stories at the time reported Brown as being almost bitter about his sudden twist of fate.
"To say I didn't want to come back — I did," Brown said Friday. "But at the same time, I had accomplished all I wanted to accomplish in college."
That included getting his degree in sports management, which he officially completed in December when he finished an internship working in the athletic department.
There were also reports that Brown was a little estranged from coach Bruce Weber at the time of his injury, feeling Weber hadn't sold him well enough to NBA scouts.
Now, Brown says "there was no problem," the giddiness of what could be another long tournament run having apparently smoothed over the hard feelings.
The similarities with Roy ebb a bit once the two hit the floor, however.
While Roy is a do-everything player capable of handling just about every position on the floor; Brown is the quintessential scoring point guard.
He has taken 152 more shots than anyone else on the team, averaging team highs of 14.2 points and 5.8 assists.
His quickness has inspired the nickname of "the one-man fast break" for his ability to get up and down the floor. Indiana coach Mike Davis even called him "the one-man 10-second violation" for his ability to pressure the ball in the backcourt.
"I'm quick already, but he is even quicker," said UW's Bobby Jones, who figures to get the first crack at guarding Brown, a common Huskies tactic that puts their bigger perimeter players on opposing point guards. "And he's closer to the ground so he will have the edge there. I'll have to be smart and keep my body in front of him and force him to shoot over me."
Brown, a native of Maywood, Ill., where he was a quarterback good enough to attract the attention of Florida State and Nebraska, also hasn't had to score as much as Roy.
Illinois features a little more balanced attack than the Huskies, namely, senior power forward James Augustine, the other starter back from a year ago. Augustine is averaging 13.2 points and 9.1 rebounds.
In another departure from where he and Roy stand, Brown's NBA stock might be even shakier now than it was a year ago. He's shooting only 36 percent overall and 32 percent from beyond the three-point line — a draft projection this week on Hoopshype.com had Brown slated No. 24 in the first round (the same projection has Roy a rapidly rising No. 7 pick).
This isn't the first time their two careers have intersected. In high school, they attended the same Nike Camp. Roy remembers Brown saying then he was headed to Illinois and has followed his career since. Brown, likewise, said he has watched Roy avidly, finding himself at midnight watching Pac-10 basketball.
They'll meet again today.
Afterward, one will head to the Sweet 16, the other to get ready for the NBA, where, this time, there will be no turning back.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com