Holdover Point Guard Key for Husky Hoopsters

March 15, 2005

By TIM KORTE
AP Sports Writer

SEATTLE (AP) - Washington's Will Conroy doesn't have the national profile ofpoint guards such as Wake Forest's Chris Paul or John Lucas from OklahomaState.

Yet Washington coach Lorenzo Romar believes the 6-foot-2 senior will play apivotal role when the Huskies (27-5) enter the NCAA tournament seeded No. 1 forthe first time in school history.

'Will has emerged over the years to make us feel great about hisleadership,' Romar said. 'He's earned our confidence and placed himself in aposition where we always have a great comfort level with him on floor.'

The Huskies are loaded with talent, enough to carry them to a 81-72 win overArizona last weekend for the Pac-10 tournament championship.

Nate Robinson is the team's leading scorer at 16.7 points a game. Anall-around crowd-pleaser, his flashy moves are even more spectacular because hecan soar to the rim at 5-9.

Tre Simmons beats opponents from outside with his steady shooting. BrandonRoy, Mike Jensen and Bobby Jones play key roles on both ends of the court. Offthe bench, it's scorer-rebounder Jamaal Williams or freshman Joel Smith.

The whole scheme wouldn't work as efficiently, though, without Conroy. It'sno coincidence the Huskies went 11-2 down the stretch, with both of theirlosses coming when Conroy didn't play well.

Limited by foul trouble, he scored 11 points and had only three assists in a77-67 loss at Stanford to end the Pac-10 regular season, and he scored six withthree assists when Washington lost 90-73 at Oregon State on Feb. 13.

Conroy knows his team needs him against Big Sky champion Montana (18-12),which has won six straight and nine of its last 11. The teams meet in theNCAA's first round Thursday at Boise, Idaho.

'I just have to be the ultimate floor leader,' Conroy said. 'Me and Coachtalk about it all the time. He thinks I've made steps at having a handle on theteam. I just need to get guys the ball, put them in scoring position.'

A standout at Garfield High in Seattle, Conroy turned down scholarshipoffers from Boston College, Providence, Pittsburgh, Eastern Washington andPortland to stay at home and walk on at Washington.

It was a great decision, especially when a scholarship became available onConroy's first day of classes as a freshman. Times were rough, though, underformer coach Bob Bender, who was fired after an 11-18 season that year.

Conroy is the only holdover from that team.

'Will has seen both sides of it, so this is really special for him,' Romarsaid. 'He kept the net with him the other night. He cut it down. He deservesit. Some guys here have experienced nothing but success. He was here in tougherdays.'

This season, Conroy averaged 9.2 points and led the Pac-10 at 6.3 assistsper game. His 198 assists broke Washington's single-season record of 163, setby Chester Dorsey in 1975-76.

He had 14 assists during a 106-73 win at California on March 3, making himWashington's career assists leader. Conroy enters the NCAA tournament with 494assists, just beyond Dorsey's mark of 466 from 1974-77.

Conroy is the first player in school history with three straight 100-assistseasons. He leads an unselfish team that ranks second nationally, averaging 19assists per game - just behind North Carolina's 19.7 average.

And Conroy is usually running the break for Washington's high-paced offense,which ranks second in the nation in scoring at 86.5 points a game.

'I think guys respond to me really well,' Conroy said. 'It's pretty muchthat we think the same way about things. We just click and bond.'

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