Even though Hillcrest senior Jayon’e Troutman witnessed Ryan Royall killed by a stray bullet in June of 2011, it took Troutman months to realize his close friend and high school basketball teammate was truly gone.
“I was in disbelief for two months,” Troutman said on Thursday. “I couldn’t believe it.”
Nearly a year has passed since Royall’s death, but Troutman hasn’t forgotten Royall. Troutman’s mission is to keep his friend’s memory alive, and the Chicago United Hoops Classic, an annual Chicago-area all-star game, will help his cause on Saturday.
All of the game’s participants, which include Troutman, are required to sign the Norm Van Lier Scholarship Fund non-violence pledge, a 125-word document vowing to avoid fighting with weapons, fists or language and declare, “The violence stops with me.”
“Norman could not stand the fact that so many kids were in harm’s way in their own neighborhoods where bullets fly frequently,” said Susan Van Lier, the wife of the late Norm Van Lier, a former Chicago Bulls player and television commentator. “We are trying to create a new generation of leaders who believe violence should be eliminated.”
The game will be held at the University of Chicago’s Gerald Ratner Athletic Center at 3 p.m. on Saturday. The annual game is a primary funding source for the Norm Van Lier Scholarship Fund.
Royall’s memory will be honored at the game, and an all-star game jersey will be presented to his mother at halftime.
“I’m glad people know who he is, and he won’t be forgotten,” Troutman said. “I remember him for his dedication, his work ethic. He was always in the gym and was bringing me along. Most of the time, I didn’t want to go. But if you wanted to hang out with Ryan, you had to go.”
Hillcrest’s Don Houston, who will coach in Saturday’s game, recalled not only Royall’s basketball ability, but his personality.
“Everyone knew Ryan,” Houston said. “They not only knew him, but they liked him. He was everyone’s friend.”
Troutman will continue his playing career at Southwestern Baptist University in Missouri next season. He plans to wear No. 30, the number Royall wore at Hillcrest.
“I want to carry him wherever I go,” Troutman said.
The game’s MVP award will also be renamed this season after former Simeon star Ben Wilson, who was shot and killed in 1984. Wilson was considered one of the top prep players in the country.
“I’m not sure how many people remember Ben Wilson,” said Simeon coach Robert Smith, who will also coach in the game. “I know the Simeon players do. It’s great they’re bringing awareness to the violence with Ben and with what happened to (Royall).”
Saturday’s game will give Smith one final chance to coach Steve Taylor, who is a Marquette recruit, and Jaleni Neely. Taylor and Neely won three state titles at Simeon.
“Steve and Jaleni, all they did was win,” Smith said. “Hopefully, we go out with one more win.”
Some of the game’s other players include Kansas State recruit Michael Orris (Crete-Monee), Saint Louis recruit Keith Carter (Proviso East), Penn recruit Tony Hicks (St. Rita), Bradley recruit Ka’Darryl Bell (Oak Park), Farragut’s Rashaun Stimage and Downers Grove South’s Jerron Wilbut. Farragut’s William Nelson and Marshall’s Henry Cotton will also coach in the game.
More information about the game can be found at chiunitedhoopsclassic.com.