Disabato: Ryan Royall a right kid in the wrong place
June 6, 2011 7:00PM
Vigil, Services set For Royall
There will be a candlelight vigil held in memory of Ryan Royall at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Hillcrest High School, 175th Street and Pulaski Road.
The vigil will begin in the school’s gymnasium and proceed to the front of the school.
A wake for the slain 17-year-old will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at Christian Life Center, 6363 W. 183rd St.
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
Jayone Troutman and Ryan Royall were best friends since seventh grade.
They stayed at each other’s houses, separated by a few blocks in Country Club Hills. They played basketball. They hung out together.
Teammates at Hillcrest the past three years, the young men had dreams of one day playing college basketball together — but only after fulfilling another dream of leading Hillcrest to a state championship next season.
Tragically, those ambitions never will be realized.
Royall, just months shy of his senior year, was shot to death early Sunday morning while he and Troutman were exiting a party in Lynwood.
The two were in the parking lot of the Ho-Chunk Sports and Expo Center when, out of nowhere, shots were heard and they hit the ground, hoping to avoid the gunfire.
Troutman was successful.
Royall was not.
Troutman, just 17, was left to watch his friend desperately gasp for air, surrounded by blood.
It’s an image he’ll live with the rest of his life.
That’s a tragedy in itself.
“I still can’t believe it,” Troutman said, wiping tears away while sitting in Hillcrest’s gym on Monday. “Ryan was such a big part of my life. He was the one person I could trust to always have my back. He was my best friend. Everything was fine (at the party), then all of a sudden ... We never expected something like that to happen.”
The innocent people involved, like Troutman and Royall, never do.
The thug who fired the bullets is another story.
Troutman insists if there were any hint of trouble occurring at the party, which, by some accounts, attracted 500 people, he and Royall never would have attended.
“We didn’t go to those kind of events,” Troutman said. “If we ever thought there was going to be trouble somewhere, we wouldn’t go. I would have rather sat in a dark room and stared at the walls.”
Unfortunately, random acts of violence against children are occurring much too frequently. It seems like a daily occurrence in Chicago. Rarely does the senselessness happen around the Southland.
“This is the first time we’ve had a student like this — an athlete — that’s passed away,” said Hillcrest athletic director Lisa Wunar, in her 22nd year at the Country Club Hills school. “Ryan was a great kid and had a ton of friends. He had a great work ethic and was a solid student. Our kids are shocked.”
On Saturday, Royall helped Hillcrest to three victories at the Riverside-Brookfield Summer Tournament. He saved his best game for last, producing the type of all-around performance coach Don Houston was expecting to see frequently next season.
“He had an exceptional game that last game,” Houston said. “He was hitting the open shot, getting to the basket and playing good defense. That’s the type of player he was.”
Those attributes allowed Ryan to earn All-Conference honors last season, averaging roughly 8 points per game for a Hillcrest team that was coming off a Class 3A state championship.
At various points throughout the season, Houston would praise Royall, telling me how the 6-foot-2 guard was developing into a go-to player. Houston had high hopes for Royall, whom he believed was a Division I talent.
“Ryan was going to be one of the main guys this year,” Houston said. “He was very talented. More than that, he was just the nicest, sweetest kid.”
His teammates echoed those sentiments Monday. There was no hiding the sadness in their eyes, the disbelief on their faces as they talked about Ryan. On Saturday, they were playing basketball with him.
At 1:21 a.m. Sunday, their teammate was pronounced dead.
“The wrong place at the wrong time,” said Brent Buchanan, Ryan’s teammate.
Most of us are guilty of taking our lives for granted.
Teenagers, however, consider themselves invincible.
Ryan’s death provides a powerful message: Always be aware of your surroundings and the decision you make.
A long life is promised to no one.
“We want kids to be safe and to stop all of this violence,” Hillcrest principal Renee Simms said. “Think about things. Don’t put yourself in harm’s way, before it’s too late.”
Ryan’s teammates — Virgil Fleming, Jalen Loving, Jovan Mooring, Buchanan and Troutman — talked about how some people will have a different perspective of their teammate’s death.
“A lot of people need to take a good, long hard look at their life,” Troutman said. “There will be people who will glorify this. The person who did this thinks it’s cool that they shot somebody. It’s not. I lost my best friend.”