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Royal gives holiday tournament a boost

The Ninth Street Basketball Tournament has been held during the Memorial Day weekend for two decades.

Thanks to the work of Bruce Royal, it’s now an official part of the Memorial Day tradition.

Royal used his business — Royal Photography — to give the tournament a boost last year. When former Ironton City Councilman Leo Johnson viewed the tournament personally, he was impressed and reported to Mayor Rich Blankenship.

“(Johnson) came down and was amazed at how professional the tournament was. The city of Ironton had now recognized this as a community event. The mayor donated a check to help the tournament,” said Royal.

And there have been more donations this year as well such as councilman Bob Cleary loaning inflatables and the city has posted banners around the town.

“The local banks have all donated money. WesBanco gave us $500 and Citi Financial has donated the water,” said Royal.

“It’s been really great. Everyone in the community has chipped in to help make this a great event. (Ironton High School athletic director) Mark LaFon has offered to let us use the gym if it rains. I couldn’t be happier with the people of the community coming together with this.”

But assistance isn’t the only thing that has improved. Royal said the bar has been raised with the quality of teams involved.

“We have a team this year with Marshall players and Shawnee State called to enter a team again,” said Royal.

“This is the most organized the tournament has been and the competition is incredible. It has the average high school player to the best players in the tri-state.”

Since the interest in the men’s 5-on-5 tournament has grown, Royal added a women’s 3-on-3 tournament last year.

“Both the men’s and women’s tournaments are similar to the Gus Macker and it’s a good way to warm up for the Gus Macker,” said Royal. “The girls’ 3-on-3 is work in progress. It’s hard to get high school players because of the rule restrictions by the Ohio High School Athletic Association.”

Royal also incorporated a slam dunk contest for the men and a 3-point shooting contest for the men and women.

“Andrea Rudmann won the women’s 3-point contest last year and we put her up against the men’s winner and she beat him. It was really something,” said Royal.

The tournament will be Saturday and Sunday, May 29-20, at the Ninth Street Park. Play begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday and ends around 10 p.m. Sunday’s schedule runs from noon to about 6 p.m.

There are still some openings for the tournament. Interested teams should contact Royal at (740) 532-3888 or register online at royalphotography.net and directions are listed on the site.

Interested teams only need to email information and jersey sizes. The fee is $8 per player and the money goes toward the team jersey each player wears. The deadline is Monday.

“If we do things right, we’re hoping the tournament outgrows the facility,” said Royal.