Portland Trailblazer Brandon Roy won't be the only ex-UW and Garfield High involved in the NBA's all-star festivities on Valentine's weekend in Phoenix. Will Conroy, his former teammate at both schools, will be there too, starting in the NBDL all-star game.
Conroy, a 6'2" point guard who's had a couple cups of coffee in the NBA, plays for the Albuquerque Thunderbirds, the D-League affiliate of the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat (although any NBA team can sign an NBDL player who's not under contract with an NBA team). He's long lit up D-League opposition, but this year Conroy has arguably been the NBDL's best player, , leading the league in scoring at 25.8 ppg while also ranking fourth in assists at 7.8 per game. He was also just named NBDL Player of the Month, something that has become a regular occurrence for Conroy, who spent part of last year playing professionally in Italy."I broke my hand in Milan, so that kind of messed up the rest of my season," he says of that experience. "I came back here and almost got called up by the Sonics. I went over there last year to put some money away. Right now, I'm just waitin' for my chance."
That chance will likely come late in the season, when NBA teams who are eliminated from playoff contention are more prone to tap younger players to fill out hobbled rosters, says Albuquerque coach John Coffino. But Conroy's ability to dramatically increase his scoring average (his previous season-high is 17.4 ppg) while keeping his distribution figures intact has compelled about a dozen NBA teams -- including Cleveland, Sacramento, and Golden State -- to inquire about Conroy's potential services, says his coach.
"He's gotten a little frustrated because of other guys getting called up, but it hasn't been guys like him -- it's been big guys," Coffino adds. "When guys need a guard, he'll get the call."
While Coffino chalks Conroy's scoring increase to the fact that his team has "less weapons" this year with the departure of filler-uppers like Kevin Pittsnogle and Julius Hodge, Conroy says he focused his summer workouts on rewiring himself to look for his shot more.
"I have to train my mind more than my body to take that shot. It's nothing that I haven't always been able to do; I just got out of the scoring mode my senior year at Washington," he explains, referring to a year when the Husky roster was stacked with scorers like Roy and current New York Knick (and former Rainier Beach) guard Nate Robinson. "Somebody had to take a back seat, and I kind of had the ability to see the floor and make the pass."
Another member of that UW squad, defensive stopper Bobby Jones, will also be participating in all-star weekend, in the NBDL's H-O-R-S-E competition. After setting an NBA record for teams (five) played for in one season last year, Jones is currently averaging 14 points and 7 rebounds for the Sioux Falls Skyforce, waiting for a call-up, just like Conroy. And coaching Conroy's Blue Team on February 14 will be none other than Quin Snyder, the former Mercer Island and Duke University star who's resurfaced with the Austin Toros after resigning as head coach at the University of Missouri a few years back.