Oct. 22, 2012
By Jon Cooper
The curtain is about to rise on the 2012-13 college basketball season and Julian Royal is ready to start the show, eager to show the world what his game is about.
“Your whole freshman year you’re just getting ready,” said the 6-8 sophomore forward. “You’re trying to figure out how to do things and understand things. Now that I’m through that I feel like I can contribute to this team more than I did last year.”
Royal knows that he’s capable of giving the Yellow Jackets much more than the 4.4 points (on 43.5 percent shooting) and 2.43 rebounds he averaged in 16.0 minutes a game last season. How much more is yet to be seen but hopes are high.
Head Coach Brian Gregory believes Royal is a work in progress and calls Royal’s contribution to the 2012-13 team a stretch — as in stretching the defense with his mid-range shooting.
“Do I like the steps that he’s made and the progress that he’s made? No question about it,” Gregory said. “But the ability to embrace the physical-ness that you have to play with offensively and defensively is very, very important for his development and as he does that he needs to continue to highlight the things that he does well, which is stretch the defense and be able to put the ball on the floor and make some skill-type plays as well.
“We primarily play with one post player and four guys on the perimeter,” he added. “So you need your bigs to be able to knock down shots and stretch the defense.”
Royal showed his ability to hit the three last season, something he did at 37.9 percent efficiency last season (11-for-29). That was second on the team (minimum 25 attempts).
“The one thing I like about all four of those guys and the hope is that they can give you both,” he said. “That each can score around the basket, maybe a little differently, but can finish around the rim but also stretch the defense out.”
Royal is hoping that knowing what to expect and having improved his conditioning will get him more court time and thus more opportunities to score the ball.
“Really what I wanted to improve was defense and my conditioning because conditioning last year was really a struggle for me,” he said. “I’d run up and down the court and get tired. It was like, ‘I’m not going to be able to go hard the whole game.’ I worked on my conditioning and that’s helped my defense and offense.”
The Alpharetta native and former Milton High School star, learned the hard way just how much work he’d have to put in after his freshman campaign. He knew coming into last year that the ACC would be a lot faster than anything he’d ever seen or any league in which he’d ever played. Just how much faster and tougher he had no idea.
“One of the biggest things is you’ve got to go hard,” he said. “You’ve got to play hard the whole game. You can’t take breaks. Other teams will kill you if you try to take a break. You think you can jog here, jog there. You can’t. You have to be ready to play the whole game.”
He’s ready now.
Working during the off-season with Holsey and Miller helped.
“We work together. We really help each other out as far as defensive and offensive schemes,” said Royal. “We’ve got a feel for each other’s games and what we do so we’re able to complement each other when we’re playing.”
Holsey believes his biggest contribution in Royal’s development has been on the mental side, staying even-keeled, and especially not getting too low in the face of adversity.
“It comes from maturity and playing a lot of games,” he said. “I tell him, ‘You’re going to have your ups and downs. There are going to be days when stuff isn’t going right for you. That’s part of life,'” he said. “We just push him and give him motivation. Tell him to keep his confidence up.”
Miller is impressed by how he handles the often literal pushing in the post.
“Every day we have the big-man drills, the post drills. He’s down there with us,” he said. “We don’t take it easy on him. I do to him like I would do to Kam. We don’t always like it and he doesn’t, either, but he’s gotten a lot better. I’ve seen him get better.”
It’s almost showtime on another season. Only this time Royal is ready to do more than just be there. He’s ready to live out his dream and really enjoy it.
“You’re young you see ACC players [on TV] and it’s just like, ‘Am I ever going to get to that stage one day?'” he said. “You’re out there on the court it’s like, ‘I’m doing what I used to watch when I was a kid.’ It’s a great feeling. I really love to play basketball out here, especially in the ACC. It’s one of the top conferences in the country. It’s just a lot of fun.”