It would have been easy for Royal Ivey to follow the trend. Many of the city's top players, including Omar Cook from Christ the King, Taliek Brown from St. John's Prep, JFK's Willie Shaw and Eric King from Lincoln, all opted to play their college ball in the Big East. And for Ivey, it would have meant playing against familiar opponents.
But Ivey has never been one to follow trends. When everyone would showcase flashy dribbling skills or a variety of dunks in the parks, Ivey went the unpopular route. He played defense. So when it was his turn to select his college, it was no surprise the St. Albans resident went a different way, to the University of Texas.
"Every guard on a Big East team I played with or against or I know personally," Ivey said. "I played against these kids all my life - it was an attraction. But I said, I want to do something different because I've been doing it different all along, taking a different route so I might as well not stop here."
Ivey is about to begin his freshman year in Austin, Texas, which he admits is a far cry from the streets of Queens.
"It's a big difference with the heat and the people are kind of spacy," he said. "But it's nice down there."
The University of Texas was not even an option for Ivey when he graduated from Cardozo two years ago. After being one of the last men on the bench his sophomore year, Ivey saw increased playing time in his junior year. But it was his breakout senior year which put the swing man on the map. Teaming with Brian Woodward, now at the University of Rhode Island, in the back court, Ivey helped lead the Judges to the Public School Athletic League championship. In addition to winning the crown, Ivey was named the game's Most Valuable Player.
But because Ivey was a late bloomer, smaller Division I schools like Marist, Boston University and Niagara were the only schools knocking on his door.
That's when Ivey was faced with a difficult decision. He had to chose between accepting a scholarship from a lower Division I school or go to prep school for a year and test the waters again.
"My parents at first were iffy, especially my mom. She didn't feel so great about prep school," he said. "I felt I needed an extra year to buckle down and get focused. I was young going into my senior year and inexperienced playing ball because I really just started playing ball on the varsity level my junior year. I had a real good senior year, but not everybody got to see me play so I thought another year of school wouldn't hurt me."
Ivey went to Blair Academy in Blairstown, N.J. Not only did the school help him academically, Ivey said he also grew up living away from home.
"At Blair I wasn't too far from home, but I wasn't close enough," he said. "I think that really helped me prepare for college. The environment at Blair is a college campus. Everything is structured for college. It got me focused."
Less than a year after winning the city championship, Ivey saw interest in him grow. No longer was it just the smaller Division I schools calling, big-time programs like Providence and Texas were courting him. The 18-year-old said he liked what Rick Barnes told him about the Longhorns' philosophy.
"It seems like those coaches really want to get something done down there and that's what I want to be a part of," he said. "I've never been on a losing team and I just want to be in a winning program."
And one of the reasons Ivey- who grew to 6-foot-5 and 198 lbs. after standing 6-foot-2, 177 lbs. at Cardozo - was so attractive to so many schools was because of his old-fashioned attitude toward the game.
"I'm like the garbage man, I do all the dirty work," he said. "I get rebounds, I like to defend. New York is known for flashy guards and I'm a guard, too, but I like to get up and defend, get in people's faces. I do it my way."
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