Parity is real in college basketball. For the Dime editorial team, that was never more clear than a couple days ago when somebody pitched the idea that we make up lists of our Top-10 favorite players from each the Sweet Sixteen programs, and we quickly realized there aren’t that many tradition-rich options on the board. Ranking your 10 favorite Baylor basketball players would be like making an all-time Charlotte Bobcats team.
Washington is one such “on the rise” program in this year’s Sweet Sixteen, rather than a perennial powerhouse. But having grown up in Seattle and watching the Huskies evolve from having almost zero basketball profile in the late-’80s/early-’90s (partially why I was a Georgetown fan as a kid) to earning Big Dance No. 1 seeds and making significant tournament runs in recent years, I had no trouble coming up with my 10 favorite Huskies:
1. Brandon Roy — Like most of the guys who helped lead UW’s most recent resurgence under coach Lorenzo Romar, I grew up with B-Roy; we played Little League football together and went to rival high schools. He almost never was a Husky, as he toyed with going pro right out of high school, but he became a four-year college star who blossomed his senior year as a national P.O.Y. candidate.
2. Nate Robinson — Just like in the pros, Nate got more attention for his dunks in the college than his actual game. And at UW, dude had game. He averaged 16 points and 4 assists as a junior before going pro, shooting 46% from the field. The energy and excitement he brought to the court had UW’s Hec Ed arena buzzing like I’ve never heard before or since.
3. Will Conroy — The starting point guard during the Roy/Nate era and UW’s all-time leader in assists. While Roy was the most talented player on the squad and Nate was the emotional spark plug, Conroy was the rock. Arguably the best D-League player who hasn’t landed a full-time NBA job yet, but he gets a call-up at least once every year.
4. Jon Brockman — The “Brockness Monster” nickname he’s picked up with the Sacramento Kings is great, but I still roll with “Jonny Matrix” because the guy still plays like Schwarzenegger’s character in Commando. It’s only fitting that his signature moment as a Husky involves him damn near breaking the hardwood.
5. Venoy Overton — If I could have anybody’s game off the current UW squad, it would be Overton’s. A defensive terror who can score a little bit when he’s asked to, the junior PG/sixth man always gets the crowd going and isn’t afraid to pick up a tech or two along the way.
6. Isaiah Thomas — Nate Robinson, Volume 2. At 5-foot-8 with explosive athleticism and infectious energy, Isaiah doesn’t catch as many dunks as Nate did in games, but I’ve seen him do windmills and go between his legs during warm-ups. Still a sophomore, he’ll be around for a couple more years and could be a 20-ppg scorer before he’s done.
7. Chester “Tre” Simmons — Probably the best pure shooter I’ve seen in a Husky uniform. We played Little League basketball together, and as I recall, our team’s playbook consisted of “Tre Going Right,” “Tre Going Left” and “Get Out of Tre’s Way.” Last I heard he was playing pro ball in Israel.
8. Quincy Pondexter — Like Roy, a complete player who resisted the urge to go pro before he was ready. Pondexter has gotten better every year, and now as a senior is in position to have a solid NBA career.
9. Bobby Jones — The quintessential glue guy and role player has been with like 10 NBA teams in his short pro career. But he’s the perfect example of why talent isn’t everything in the League. Jones is certainly good enough to make an NBA roster, albeit not good enough for teams to think he’s indispensable, but he can always get a look because he has a good reputation as a hard worker and reliable employee.
10. Ryan Appleby — “Apples” wouldn’t quite crack this list, but he was a legit three-point specialist. He was raised in the area, but originally played at Florida before transferring back home. In another life, Apples would have gone to Gonzaga and been a superstar.
Honorable mention: Donald Watts, Jamaal Williams, Justin Dentmon, Deon Luton, Todd MacCulloch
(NOTE: Please remember the difference between “favorite” and “best.” And before you say anything about Detlef Schrempf, his last year at UW was 1985. I was three. I don’t remember seeing him play.)