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Friday, February 17, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Bud Withers

Roy's leadership is the glue that keeps Huskies together

Seattle Times colleges reporter

EUGENE, Ore. — The Washington team bus pulled up outside venerable McArthur Court in the crisp, sunny late afternoon, and Brandon Roy had the Huskies ready for a venomous welcome.

"In the past," he said with a smile after the Huskies pulled out a 75-72 victory over Oregon here Thursday night, "at least 25 students were waiting for us when we got off the bus.

"We walked in and I didn't hear one comment. The whole warm-up, it was quiet. There wasn't a lot of energy tonight in the building. Even I was a little disappointed. I was hyping the crowd to the freshmen."

Some senior leader, relaying faulty reconnaissance to the rookies.

The younger Huskies will forgive Roy for the misinformation. It's one of the few mistakes he's made in a glittering senior season, one that he extended in his last time in this classic old building with a team-high 21 points, four rebounds and four assists.

Roy is what the struggling Ducks don't have — in fact, what a lot of teams don't have — a "glue" guy who stars. Somebody who affects the game beyond his statistics, because even when he isn't scoring or assisting, the defense must pay so much homage to him, it's breaking down somewhere else.

On this night, freshman Jon Brockman had 14 points, his Pac-10 high, and a good chunk of it came because Roy collapsed Oregon's zone and positioned Brockman for tips and putbacks.

"I'm just enjoying every moment of this," said Roy, who helped inch the 19-5 Huskies a step closer to the NCAA tournament. "I feel I'm having a pretty good senior season."

It's not always this way for seniors, especially guys like Roy, who played the good soldier a year ago, coming off the bench in deference to seniors like Nate Robinson, Tre Simmons and Will Conroy. There's a fine line often crossed by some seniors toward me-first, gimme-the-ball play with one eye trained on the NBA.

"My teammates like me, they enjoy me," Roy said. "I'm not being too dominant in the locker room or anything like that. As long as all the things are good, I'm having fun."

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Roy came here as Pac-10 player of the week. If the league's coaches have their heads on straight, and the Huskies perform adequately down the stretch — say, win three of their last five — they ought to stretch "week" into "year."

Says UW coach Lorenzo Romar, "I'm not one of those coaches that goes to tell the world, 'Step right up, here's the world's greatest player.' That's not my style. But I have to speak the truth.

"I just don't know how many are out there that do as many things as Brandon Roy does in the whole country."

It's not many. Roy beats you with the bounce, with the draw-and-dish feed, with the occasional three. A big guard, he sometimes defended Oregon's 6-foot point guard, Aaron Brooks, in this game, and Brooks had seven points. Last week, he switched between UCLA's standout backcourt of Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo, and the two combined to shoot 4 for 23.

There's no more versatile player in the Pac-10. He entered this game second in scoring at 19.2 per game, 12th in rebounding at 5.5, seventh in field-goal percentage at .498, eighth in assists at 3.87, seventh in steals at 1.39 and seventh in three-point percentage at .419.

"He's always been our best player," said Romar, speaking of his four-year tenure at Washington.

The guy who most figures to contest him for that honor probably is Cal's Leon Powe, who leads the league in both scoring and rebounding. The Bears, who beat Arizona last night, are tied in the loss column for the Pac-10 lead, so unless they stumble, Powe might have an edge. The Huskies are 8-5 to the Bears' 10-3.

But it's not as if it's unprecedented to look past the top of the standings for the Pac-10 player of the year. Arizona State's Ike Diogu won it last year and the Sun Devils went to the NIT. So did a 19-13 ASU team in 2000, but Eddie House won it. In 1991, Oregon's Terrell Brandon won it for a team that went 13-15.

Surely the Huskies are capable, but they're also flawed. They start two freshmen, they sometimes shoot too quickly, and they occasionally give up the too-easy basket.

"It's different," Roy said. "Last year, our chemistry was extremely high. You see it now, there are stretches where we don't have a lot of chemistry."

At those times, it's immeasurably helpful to have Brandon Roy — scorer, rebounder, passer and chemist.

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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