Royal adds Ohio Mr. Basketball to list of accolades

Devin Royal appeared to have entered this season as the envy of every high school basketball player in the state.

The 6-foot-6, 210-pound forward from Pickerington Central was rated the state’s top recruit, led his team to the Division I state championship as a junior and signed with Ohio State two weeks before the first game of his senior season.

But he still saw one glaring omission on his resume.

Royal came up short in Ohio Mr. Basketball voting last March to Centerville’s Gabe Cupps, whose team the Tigers defeated 55-48 in the state final.

“Once he got it (last year), I wanted to get it this year even more,” Royal said.

In the final week of his high school career, mission accomplished.

Royal was named Ohio Mr. Basketball by a statewide media panel Wednesday afternoon. He edged Cupps by three points in the voting, 90-87.

“It means a lot. I’m happy,” Royal said. “I wish I’d have gotten it last year, too, but it’s good to have it. It was one of my goals for sure.

“I am really just focused on state right now, but this was a big goal for me. The biggest goal for me walking into this year was to win state back-to-back. I will celebrate this, though. It’s an award I think I earned for all the work I put in.”

Royal is averaging 19.6 points and 7.6 rebounds and shooting 64.9% from the field for the Tigers (23-5), who play Centerville (25-3) in a Division I state semifinal at 5:15 p.m. Saturday at University of Dayton Arena.

Now in its 36th year, the prestigious Mr. Basketball award was first given by the Associated Press in 1988. It has been voted on by the Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association since 2017.

Cuyahoga Falls Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy’s Darryn Peterson was third, followed by Dailyn Swain of Columbus Africentric, Jerry Easter II of Toledo Emmanuel Christian, Bede Lori of Caldwell and Luke Skaljac of Brecksville-Broadview Heights.

In the voting, three points were awarded for first place, two for second and one for third.

Royal is Pickerington Central’s first Mr. Basketball recipient. He is the ninth winner from central Ohio and first since Walnut Ridge’s VonCameron Davis in 2020.

“I’m excited for (Royal) and proud of the season he’s had,” Central coach Eric Krueger said. “You never know what will happen, but he was definitely deserving.”

A three-year starter, Royal averaged 19.1 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists during last year’s state title run. He committed to Ohio State on Aug. 2 and scored a career-high 40 points Jan. 13 in a win at Reynoldsburg.

Royal became Central’s all-time leading scorer Thursday, amassing 28 points in a 59-51 regional semifinal win over Westerville South. He had 29 Saturday, including the game-winning basket in the final minute, to power the Tigers to a comeback 57-53 win over Lewis Center Olentangy Orange in the regional final at Ohio University.

Royal has 1,504 career points, 43 more than 2014 graduate Jae’Sean Tate. Tate went on to play at Ohio State and currently is with the NBA’s Houston Rockets.

“(Royal) has become more versatile offensively,” Krueger said. “He’s become an all-around wing. He is just a tough matchup. He can play on the perimeter, he can play down low and he can play between. He has a strong mid-range game. He’s diversified his game offensively and become better defensively, and he’s sharing the ball too. He has a lot of trust in his teammates.

“It’s been key for us and for him.”