PICKERINGTON, Ohio (BVM) – A little more than a year ago, Devin Royal wasn’t exactly on the national radar. However, a junior season in which he took a big step forward to average 19.1 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists changed things.
“Going into it, I had bigger goals from sophomore year,” Royal said. “I had a bigger role. I had to score more, I had to rebound more, I had to do a lot of things more. At the beginning of the season, we took an early loss. I think that helped us and woke us up … Going into my junior year, winning state was a big thing for us. I thought halfway through the season, we all came together and just kept getting better.”
Royal’s ascension to stardom combined with the strong team continuity of his Pickerington Central squad made the Tigers a dangerous team come playoff time. It led to a trip to state where they faced a dominant Centerville team that had won 45 games in a row and was looking for a state championship repeat.
“It was a great atmosphere, very hostile, too,” Royal said. “It was fun, though. Going into the game, we just wanted to play how we play.”
The Tigers did just that. A strong defensive effort combined with a 20-point outing from Royal led Pickerington Central to a 55-48 upset as the team claimed its first state title in 10 years.
— SportsCenter NEXT (@SCNext) March 22, 2022
“We played great defense, talked a lot on defense,” Royal added. “We really came together for that state championship game. Afterwards, everybody was just happy. We were kind of doubted because Centerville had won state last year and was on a big win streak … Coming out of that with a win was just great for us.”
The state championship in his junior season was just part of a successful year for Royal, however. Playing for All-Ohio Red on the Nike EYBL circuit during the summer, the 6-foot-7, 210-pound forward proved just how good he was as he scored over 17 points per game while leading his team to an opportunity to play at Peach Jam.
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“I think it was great for me just seeing how everybody was just good players,” Royal said. “Just having a high talent, having a high motor, playing there showed me a lot and showed me to keep working … Just playing with them and playing against top people and players was great for me.”
Even prior to his standout play over the summer, many colleges had already taken notice of Royal’s dynamic skill set, getting him one step closer to his ultimate basketball goals: playing high-level college basketball and making it to the NBA.
“I feel like it’s going to take a lot of work to get to that point,” Royal said. “It’s definitely not an easy thing to get, but if I do get the opportunity, that’ll mean the world to me. Every kid dreams of going to the NBA, so to be able to get the opportunity would be a great thing for me.”
Like many, Royal’s NBA dream came about at a young age. While his parents made him try out other sports like soccer, baseball and football – the latter of which his dad played in college at Cincinnati – basketball was the sport that stood out for the Pickerington Central forward.
“I just liked playing basketball a lot,” Royal said. “I just liked the feel of it, so I stuck to basketball.”
Growing up watching some of his favorite players like LeBron James and Jayson Tatum, Royal quickly developed into a versatile player on the court, as well as a strong leader. By the end of his youth basketball career, he began to see that he could really do something within the sport.
“That’s probably when I realized I can go pretty far if I just keep working,” Royal mentioned.
Thanks to the coaching he had received in the years prior, Royal’s transition to high school basketball was seamless. While his first two years were solid, the breakout junior season helped put not only Royal on the national radar, but his Tigers team on the map.
“I think it’s great,” Royal said. “We’ve had a lot of great talent through all the years before I even was there. To be able to come in, put our team on the map, and get attention for me and also for our players that I feel are very talented but don’t get a lot of looks … That’s my whole goal, is just to try and get our players more looks, our team more looks.”
Now, as a senior, Royal is continuing to do just that. Going into the year, the goals for Royal remained the same: work to get better, and succeed while doing so.
“Some of my goals coming into this season were to just keep working, getting better and getting ready for college,” Royal said. “Also getting our team ready to try to win state again. I’m the senior now, so it’s just a bigger role for all of our seniors.”
Throughout his senior season, Royal has put up several big performances, including a 40-point effort in mid-January.
— 270 Hoops 🏀 (@270Hoops) January 14, 2023
He has also achieved some senior-year milestones such as becoming a 1,000-point scorer.
— Gee Dowlen (@gdowlen3) December 7, 2022
“Getting 1,000 points was a big accomplishment for me,” Royal said. “I always wanted to do that coming into high school. That was big for me, but also looking at that, I need to put more work in.”
By the end of his high school career, Royal could very well be the all-time leading scorer at Pickerington Central. It’s something he’s well aware of, but his main focus remains on helping his team win.
“My goal every game is to help us win,” Royal said. “My goal coming in isn’t that I’m going to score this amount of points, it just kind of happens. Trying to help our team is my full goal in every game.
“Coming out of Central, I just want people to see a great guy who just helps the team win, helps us do a lot of things and is a leader. That’s my full focus of leaving Central, hopefully with two state titles.”
If Royal does become the Tigers’ all-time leading scorer, he will pass an elite talent while doing so in current Houston Rockets forward Jae’Sean Tate. Following his time at Pickerington Central, Tate became an All-Big Ten player for the Ohio State Buckeyes, something Royal will also soon look to become.
Initially, playing in college for the Buckeyes wasn’t Royal’s first choice. He had a final nine during his recruiting process that included the likes of Alabama, Clemson, Marquette, Michigan, Miami, Michigan State, Ole Miss and Penn State. Eventually, the forward narrowed down his list to Alabama, Michigan State and the Buckeyes.
— Devin Royal (@DevinRoyal7) July 29, 2022
Even though they weren’t No. 1 at first, the Buckeyes offered Royal when he was a three-star prospect ranked outside of the top 100, and the relationships he built through the coming months at Ohio State were too good to pass up.
— Devin Royal (@DevinRoyal7) August 3, 2022
“Early on, Ohio State was not the front-runner in my recruitment,” Royal explained. “But the more I got more relationships with them and the coaching staff, and being able to see how they run things over there just grew on me. They were like a family and they have a family over there. I’m a big guy on leadership and I wanted a great relationship wherever I went. All the coaches, the players, kind of grew on me. Plus being the hometown, I feel like that kind of led me to them.”
Living just a short drive from the Ohio State campus growing up, Royal will have plenty of supporters throughout his time playing at the Schottenstein Center, and relishes the chance to represent his hometown.
“It means a lot because my family and friends can come watch me and support,” Royal said. “That was a big plus in everything.”
Meanwhile, Royal has also been able to build a relationship with Tate. It has not only further sold Royal on the Buckeyes, but also continues to inspire the Pickerington Central senior as he soon heads off to the next level.
“Jae’Sean went to Pickerington Central, too,” Royal said. “Talking to him, he gave me details on how Ohio State works and how Ohio State runs. It’s just a plus. That’s a guy who went to my high school and went to my future college, so it just meant a lot to be able to talk to him and get information from him.”
The four-star recruit comes to Columbus alongside a talented 2023 class that is ranked No. 6 by 247Sports. Both Taison Chatman and Scotty Middleton are also top-50 recruits in the nation as is Royal, while the Buckeyes will also bring in a talented in-state center in Austin Parks. Combined with a strong 2022 class that already features a Big Ten Freshman of the Year candidate in Brice Sensabaugh, the future looks bright at Ohio State.
“I feel like we’re going to have a good class, and a good 2022 class is already there,” Royal said. “We all have good relationships, too. We went on visits and everybody clicked. It felt like family over there. Coming in, I think we’re going to bring in a lot for Ohio State.”
Just as he has during his quick emergence at Pickerington Central, Royal is destined to shine in Columbus. He still has business to take care of this winter with the Tigers, but with the Buckeyes, the main goal will remain the same: win.
“Team goals, win a national title, of course, and win the Big Ten,” Royal said. “Personally, leave an impact on the court. Just show my versatility and how I play on the court. Also, make sure our team has great chemistry and that we show that out on the court too.”