Tragedy struck prep sports again on Saturday night when a budding 17-year-old basketball prospect from the Chicago area was killed in a shooting at a Sweet 16 birthday party.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, ABC7 News and a variety of other sources, Ryan Royall, a star guard for the Hillcrest (Ill.) High Hawks basketball team, attended the party in south Lynwood with a group of friends, all of whom were told about it through word of mouth. When the group left the scene at approximately 12:30 a.m. Sunday morning, shots rang out, with Royall struck multiple times. Less than an hour later, the teen was pronounced dead at Franciscan St. Margaret Mercy Health Care in Dyer, Ind., the nearest emergency medical center.
Royall's death has been ruled a homicide.
The star's passing has left a significant void in a community where Royall had begun to establish himself not only as the next potential breakout basketball star, but also as a positive role model other teens and younger students could look up to.
"He was such a harmless kid," Hillcrest basketball coach Don Houston told the Sun-Times of Royall, whom he coached for three seasons. "There wasn't a mean bone in his body."
While there were allegedly as many as 300 to 400 teens at the Saturday night festivities, there were no reports of trouble or violence at all during the party, according to one of Royall's friends who was also at the event.
As it were, Royall and his entourage left when they did to recuperate before a Sunday slate of basketball games at the Riverside-Brookville Summer Tournament, where the quicksilver guard led Hillcrest to a 3-0 record on Saturday. Houston said that Royall had been one of the team's leading players on Saturday, and was expected to emerge in his senior season as true Division I prospect, building off an all-conference junior season.
Now, he is gone, with friends and family struggling to come to grips with such a stunning and sudden loss.
"This was senseless," said Royall's aunt and godmother Vallaurie Dixson. "He did everything right and he's still gone in a random act of violence."
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