With every NCAA tournament game won, every All-American team made, one question seems increasingly relevant:
Is Brandon Roy the greatest player in Washington basketball history?
Obviously, it's a subjective query. How do you really compare players from the low-flying 1950s to those from the acrobatic 2000s? From guards asked to pass to centers asked to shoot?
But it's a lot more fun than trying to determine why the Huskies can't keep local talent home, which used to be the resounding question of the day. Of course that was before Roy helped make it cool for Seattleites to sign with UW when he decided in the fall of 2001 to come to Washington.
And it's not one that will offend any of the old-timers who also factor in the discussion.
For instance, Detlef Schrempf, whom former UW coach Marv Harshman calls "overall, the best player I ever coached," said he would have no problem ceding that title to Roy.
A look at seven of the top players in UW history
Center, 1951-53 — 1953
National Player of the Year after leading UW to Final Four. Only Husky with his number retired (No. 25). Scored 846 points in 1953, most in school history.
One of the most versatile players in school history. Was a two-time All-Pac-10 Player and led UW to a share of two straight conference titles. Stellar 15-year NBA career.
Leading career scorer in school history and 1986 Pac-10 Player of the Year, helped UW to three straight NCAA tournaments.
Third-leading scorer in school history who led the NCAA in field-goal percentage for three straight years. Led UW to 1998 Sweet 16 and two straight NCAA tournaments.
Pac-10 Player of the Year and USBWA All-American led UW to three straight NCAA tournaments and two straight Sweet 16s with a higher finish possibly to come.
1976 All-American while leading UW to a 23-5 record. No. 5 all-time scorer. Earned three NBA title rings during a 19-year pro career.
Averaged more than 20 points and 10 rebounds each of his three seasons. His 14.8 rebounds in 1971 is a season record for UW. Played 10 seasons in the NBA.
"In the modern era, for sure, because it's not measured in points or rebounds, but the success of the team," Schrempf said. "It's proven the last two or three years that he's taken this team to another level in a fashion that's not the new basketball-hype kind of thing. He's not scoring 25 points or whatever. But he's helping his team win in many ways. He's playing good defense, rebounding, passing the ball. He is the guy."
It's that team success that is beginning to set Roy apart.
Not only have the Huskies advanced to the Sweet 16 for the second straight season under Roy's leadership — he was UW's leading overall scorer in its three NCAA tournament games a year ago — but UW's 55 wins (against 12 losses) the last two years are the most over a two-year period in school history. The only two-year span that compares is the 53-9 mark of the 1952-53 teams led by Bob Houbregs, the latter of which advanced to the school's only Final Four.
"[Former UCLA coach] Jim Harrick used to always say that great players take their teams to great heights," said UW coach Lorenzo Romar, who calls Roy the best player he's coached in his time at Washington.
"Obviously it's a team game, but when you have someone who is as talented as Brandon is who can go out there and can assess the game and see where there's a weakness and see what his team needs and then go out there and give it to you, that's a winner."
Romar points out that Roy also leads the Huskies in charges taken and loose balls recovered.
In official career stats, however, Roy won't rank among the UW leaders in any categories, due in part to missing the first 14 games of his freshman season while attempting to get a qualifying SAT score, and then missing another nine games last season due to a knee injury and being limited in many others.
For instance, Roy is 10th on the school's all-time scoring list — 21 points behind Doug Smart. Fittingly, on Saturday, Roy passed Schrempf, the player to whom he is most often compared.
Had Roy not missed those games, he'd likely be fifth on the all-time scoring list despite the fact that he spent much of his sophomore and junior seasons sharing the scoring load with Nate Robinson, Tre Simmons and Will Conroy.
Roy also ranks sixth in all-time assists with 305, five behind Donald Watts.
"You can look at stats in a lot of ways," said Houbregs, who is second on the school's all-time scoring list, and led UW to the Final Four in 1953. "It's true that he's so much better than what his point total is going to show because he has the entire game. I'm not sure there's been that many players who have a lot of points more than he has who could play the defense that he plays, or pass the way he passes it, or rebound the way he rebounds it."
And more than any number, Roy will be remembered for the way he took this team over as a senior.
Other than Houbregs, it's unlikely any Husky has had the impact for one season that Roy has had on the Huskies this year. When Schrempf led UW to two Pac-10 titles, he did so alongside center Chris Welp, the leading scorer in school history. Welp was the Pac-10 player of the year in 1986 once Schrempf graduated — the only Husky other than Roy to win that award — but UW's record faded his final two seasons.
When James Edwards was an All-American in 1976 and led UW to a 23-5 record, he played alongside guard Chester Dorsey, also a member of UW's 10-man All-Century Team. MacCulloch might come closest in overall individual impact on one team in the post-Houbregs era, though he had Watts as a more-than capable sidekick in the Sweet 16 season of 1998. Steve Hawes and Louie Nelson, stars of the 1972 team that went 20-6 that Harshman has called maybe his best, had each other. They are each among the top seven scorers in UW history.
That's not to knock Bobby Jones, Jamaal Williams, Mike Jensen and the rest. But there is no doubt who powers the engine.
As Schrempf said, "This year, he has to step up every game. If he doesn't step up, they're in trouble. He's delivered."
Said Harshman: "No question about it. This year if he's not in there, it's not the same team."
It seemed to take Roy a little while to realize that, something he has admitted and attributes partially to a self-described laid-back personality.
But once he realized the team needed him to lead every night, Roy did that. He has averaged 22.7 points over UW's last 14 games while leading the Huskies in assists (4.5 per game). Roy's averaging 24.5 points, four assists and five rebounds in the two NCAA tourney games, shooting 53 percent from the field and 44 percent from three-point range.
"I've never seen a player grow as much within the same year the way he has elevated his game the last six to eight weeks," said Jason Hamilton, a former UW player and assistant coach who works on UW's broadcast team. "Brandon always had the ability to take over games, but he never had to do it consistently. I think once he got a sense of what it took to actually be a factor game in and game out, he really thrived on it."
Ultimately, determining the best player in school history is an almost impossible task, even though Roy could make it easier by leading UW to the Final Four.
"It's so hard to rate players from different eras," Harshman said. "But I'll say this — I'll give him an A-plus."
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Percy Allen contributed to this article.