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Thursday, March 4, 2010
RISE Flashback: Brandon Roy

By Sam Alipour

Brandon Roy
Brandon Roy says that the road he took to the NBA prepared him for life on and off the court.

Brandon Roy understood the value of hard work at an early age.

Most mornings, Roy's father, Tony, left home at 5 a.m. to drive a Seattle Metro bus, often picking up extra shifts to help fund Brandon's AAU travel. His mother, Gina, worked in the local elementary school's cafeteria, allowing her to keep an eye on her four kids and tend to their needs at home.

Brandon didn't let his parents' sacrifices go to waste.

On the high school court with Garfield (Seattle, Wash.), he made the leap from a marginal role player as a sophomore to the leader of an undefeated squad as a junior to the state's most heralded baller as a senior. He persevered in the classroom, too, overcoming a learning disability that slowed his reading comprehension.

After briefly entering his name in the 2002 NBA draft right out of high school, Roy withdrew and became the first in his family to attend a four-year college. Hardly a can't-miss pro prospect, Roy played four seasons at Washington, seeing his draft stock rise each year.

After propelling the Huskies to back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances, Roy was selected by the Portland Trail Blazers with the No. 6 pick in the 2006 draft. Now a two-time All-Star and the leader in his locker room, Roy has led Portland from the cellar to the playoffs by filling up box scores, nailing big buckets and instilling the work ethic his parents taught him into his young teammates.

ESPN RISE: What do you miss most about high school?
Brandon Roy: More than anything, that it was more fun. Those days, we used to play ball in the gym at lunchtime, then play a game that night. We'd dance before games, do chants. It was just a lot of fun. And it was more innocent. There was no media involved. Plus, you had kids that weren't as good, so there weren't as many egos involved. Those were great days. I go back to Seattle to play in the summertime, so I still keep in touch with most of the guys I played with on my high school team. And I actually went to college with (high school teammates) Will Conroy, Tre Simmons and Anthony Washington, so I've had a long run with those guys. We're all still good friends. High school ball is a bond like no other.

ESPN RISE: You entered the draft right out of high school, then withdrew your name. What was your reasoning behind each move?
Brandon Roy: Well, when I was finishing high school, I had some complications with my SAT scores. At the same time, I'd committed to coach Bob Bender at Washington, and he was let go at the end of the season. They were going through a coaching search, so I was a little nervous about that, not knowing who they'd bring in. So I decided to put my name in the draft. Then, after going through the process, I realized I wasn't prepared mentally or physically to play in the NBA, so I decided to pull my name out and go to college. Around that same time, they hired Coach (Lorenzo) Romar. He came to my school, and we talked for an hour over lunchtime. I just felt real comfortable with him, so I decided to go to Washington.

ESPN RISE: Having had that college experience, what are your thoughts on the age restriction?
Brandon Roy: I'm the type who thinks that if a guy wants to go straight to the NBA out of high school, that's fine. That's a personal choice. But I also have to say that college helps develop guys, both mentally and physically. There are kids who are physically ready, but they're not mentally ready or mature enough to deal with the NBA. And I think it's good for kids to look to go to college because it can help them in the long run. Instead of rushing to the NBA, take your time and prepare yourself for your future, which goes well beyond basketball.

ESPN RISE: You mentioned your problems with your SAT scores. For young players out there dealing with the same thing, how did you overcome that challenge?
Brandon Roy: Going through school, I thought everything was great. Then I got to high school and noticed I was struggling in certain areas. I actually got tested for a learning disability, and that helped me on my SATs because it gave me more for the reading part. That played a huge part in helping me pass the test. I just needed a little more time than the average kid. I think some kids feel like if they don't know the answer, they're dumb. But sometimes you need to seek help to attain your goal. My goal was getting to college, so I did a lot of extra tutoring and extra work, and I ultimately succeeded. I tell kids all the time, if you feel like you're struggling, go ask your teacher or principal for a little help. In my case, I just needed a little assistance to catch up and pass the test. Kids sometimes feel like there's an easy way out. I can tell you, passing the SATs wasn't easy. But I worked hard and got it done.

ESPN RISE: You missed part of your freshman year at Washington while waiting for your fifth and final SAT score to come in. How did you pass the time?
Brandon Roy: After I graduated, I was sitting at home on the couch. I knew I'd be missing the autumn quarter, so I told my parents I wanted to get a part-time job. I never wanted to be that guy just sitting around. And my parents didn't have a lot of money, so I didn't want to just live off them. I wanted to make my own way. So I went to my old AAU coach to see if he knew somebody who could give me a job. He gave me a few options. The job I decided on was working down in the Seattle docks. It was a great experience for me. I was there with people who worked extremely hard and don't get paid like basketball players. It was a chance to get to know the everyday working guy. In talking to them, they told me that when I pass that test and get into college, I have to make the most of my opportunity. I try to keep that mentality with me today, no matter how successful I am in the NBA.

ESPN RISE: So while your peers were sweating on the court, you were smelling like fish off it?
Brandon Roy: Depended on what I had to clean that day. (Laughs.) I was a utility guy. Sometimes I'd go into those shipping containers with a spray and clean them out, or I'd take out trash, or I'd clean bathrooms. I was like a janitor. They also taught me how to drive the forklift, so when I got bored I'd move boxes around. It was hard work. I'd come home dirty, and I'd have to go to the porch and take off my clothes, and my mom would give me new clothes so I could come in the house. (Laughs.) I would want my kids to go through something like that. It gives you good perspective.

ESPN RISE: After a typical high school game, was it pizza with teammates, hit up a party or home with mommy and daddy?
Brandon Roy: Home with mommy and daddy, every time, without fail. (Laughs.) I'm different because I'm both a momma's boy and a daddy's boy. I was a momma's boy first because my dad always used to get on me. Then, we kinda had a breakthrough, and now I'm momma's and daddy's boy. I didn't have a lot of activities outside of basketball. Growing up, I played baseball and football, but when I got to high school, I stopped. I was playing JV basketball, and I remember thinking, "Man, this is a little tougher than little league basketball." (Laughs.) At that point, I realized I better stick to one sport. Plus, I really enjoyed my time off with my parents.

ESPN RISE: Do you have any regrets about your high school days?
Brandon Roy: My biggest regret is not taking my education as seriously as I would if I could go back and do it now. My freshman and sophomore years, I was having fun. I wasn't mature enough. If I could go back, I would've taken my education far more seriously.

ESPN RISE: What's your advice to young ballers hoping to make it to the next level?
Brandon Roy: I always tell guys, "Continue to work hard." I think a lot of kids want things to come easy. Look, I have a lot of great things in my life now, but it all came through hard work, setting minor goals, and reaching each and every one of them. Understand that there will be days where you think it's impossible. You need to expect that. But if you work hard, your dreams can come true.