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Hillcrest basketball star fatally shot at birthday party

Hilcrest's Ryan Royall takes three past Morton's Jeff Jarosz game Dec 28 2010.

Hilcrest's Ryan Royall takes a three past Morton's Jeff Jarosz in a game Dec 28, 2010.

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Updated: July 14, 2011 11:58PM

The worn basketball hoop at the end of the driveway said it all. Ryan Royall lived and breathed basketball. As a standout player at Hillcrest High School, he hoped to earn a college scholarship so his mother would not have to worry about money. College scouts were already taking notice.

But that goal was cut short early Sunday morning when a shooting at a party in south suburban Lynwood claimed the life of 17-year-old Royall, who friends and family say was “one of the good kids.”

“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.”

At approximately 12:30 a.m. Sunday morning, Royall and a group of friends were leaving a birthday party at Ho-Chunk Sports and Expo Center in Lynwood. They were at their car when they heard a disturbance in another parking lot. Shots rang out and they hit the ground, said Royall’s friend Olajuwon Harris, who was with him.

“I can’t believe Ryan is gone,” said Harris, 17. “He was a big part of my life. We were together all the time.”

Royall, of the 17700 block of Winston Drive in Country Club Hills, was shot multiple times and was pronounced dead at 1:21 a.m. at Franciscan St. Margaret Mercy Health Care in Dyer, Ind., said Lake County, Ind., Deputy Coroner Pam Nauracy. Another teen was shot in the leg and taken to an undisclosed area hospital.

An autopsy Sunday morning determined his death was a homicide, according to Nauracy.

Hillcrest basketball coach Don Houston and the entire team visited Royall’s family on Sunday to offer their condolences.

“He was such a harmless kid. There wasn’t a mean bone in his body,” said Houston.

Added family friend Ashantti Thomas: “Ryan was always doing something productive. He was an all-around great kid who had a lot of friends.”

The center at 10 Southland Drive was rented out for a 16-year-old’s birthday party and 300 to 400 people attended, police said. Royall, who just finished his junior year at Hillcrest, and his friends knew of the party through word of mouth.

Jayone Troutman, another friend who was with Royall at the party, said he knew of no incidents during the party.

“It was just a party,” Troutman said. “It was breaking up when all this happened.”

Royall’s position on the Hillcrest team was guard and he was seen playing all day Saturday during the Riverside-Brookfield Summer Tournament.

Houston said Royall, whose obsession with basketball began at age 5, was expected to be one of his top players this year.

“He played in all three games for us yesterday. We went 3-0 and were going to play in the championship bracket today,” Houston said. “Ryan was one of my leading players, an all-conference guy. Just a tough kid on the court.”

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