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Originally published Saturday, May 29, 2010 at 6:17 PM

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Steve Kelley

Brandon Roy says tutoring helped save career

After Roy's sophomore year, Lou Hobson, a longtime AAU coach and mentor of many of Seattle's high-school hoop prodigies, found tutors for Roy. Now, when Roy thinks about his journey from Garfield to the Portland Trail Blazers, he remembers what Hobson did for him and understands how those necessarily tough, extra hours in the classroom saved his career.

Seattle Times staff columnist

Basketball, Brandon Roy thought, would be enough.

Academics might be important to most high-school sophomores, but Roy was an all-star basketball player, so good and so ready, that the game would sustain him. The game would take care of everything.

He only needed math to tally up his stat sheets. And reading just took time away from the gym.

Roy didn't know it, but his life was going in circles. He wasn't growing. Outside of basketball, he wasn't getting tested. Outside of basketball he was failing.

But after his sophomore year at Garfield, Roy was frightened into changing his life. Then-Arizona coach Lute Olson, an icon in the game, told Roy, "I can't give you a scholarship unless your grades are better."

For the first time in his life, maybe the only time in his life, Roy was scared.

"I always thought that if you're good enough at basketball, you're going to make it and I'm good enough," Roy said sitting in an office Friday at the Rainier Vista Boys and Girls Club. "But when Lute Olson told me that, I went home and talked to my mom for hours. I didn't know what I was going to do. It was close to being too late."

After Roy's sophomore year, Lou Hobson, a longtime AAU coach and mentor of many of Seattle's high-school hoop prodigies, found tutors for Roy.

Now, when Roy thinks about his journey from Garfield to the Portland Trail Blazers, he remembers what Hobson did for him and understands how those necessarily tough, extra hours in the classroom saved his career.

"Besides my parents, Lou was my everything," Roy said. "Lou took a liking to me and made sure I had tutoring. The only thing I had to agree to was effort. Lou told me, 'I want to see you working as hard in your tutoring as you do in that gym every day.'

"I had to go back and learn math from about the middle-school level. I had to go back and learn proper English. At first I hated it, but after a while I couldn't wait for my next tutoring session."

Brandon Roy, who fearlessly challenges Dwight Howard at the rim and craves the basketball in the final moments of big games, was overwhelmed in the classroom.

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He said there were times, as a sophomore at Garfield, when he would cut class because he was embarrassed by what he didn't know.

"I was closer than this close to not making it," Roy said, holding his index finger just above his thumb. "It's so hard for me think about it now.

"Even when I put my name in for the NBA draft (in high school), I was just trying to figure out a way to not fail. Some of it was desperation. I wasn't confident. I didn't know if I could make it into school."

Tutoring took away the fear. His tutors gave him confidence off the court.

"I was scared," he said. "I was really insecure in class. But I got lucky and got hit with a rude awakening as a sophomore. But a lot of guys I know got hit after high school, when it was too late. Once I figured it out and realized you have to show up for these tutoring sessions and you have to ask for help, it made things a lot easier in my life."

Roy, who was picked sixth in the 2006 NBA draft after completing his four-year career at Washington, is a self-described spokesman for the new A Plus Youth Program, which combines basketball with academic tutoring and civic engagement workshops.

A Plus, a program of the Rainier Vista Boys and Girls Club, is sponsoring fifth- and sixth-grade AAU basketball programs this year. Next season, A Plus expects to add more AAU teams.

"I look at A Plus as somewhat my story," said Roy. "It's like I'm the guy they tested this theory on. Lou wanted to do it for more kids, not just me, but he just didn't have the means to do it."

Roy will be the keynote speaker at Rainier Vista's "Change the Game Breakfast" at 8 a.m. June 17 at the Rainier Vista Boys and Girls Club.

"Looking back on it now, there probably were guys out there better than me," Roy said. "But I was fortunate enough to have somebody who took my education as seriously as they did my basketball. The tutoring I got taught me to have balance in my life.

"Everything that I went through, I wish that my brother (Ed) had been able to go through. That's the only reason I'm in the position I'm in now. He had better basketball, but I had better tutoring. I wish there had been a program for him, like A Plus. It definitely hurts me to see him not able to realize his dreams."

Basketball is never enough. Roy learned that, and he wants the next generation of hoopers to learn it earlier in their lives.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com

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About Steve Kelley

Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
skelley@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2176

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