Cal Poly

Cal Poly finds hometown basketball hero as Royer shines

Cal Poly center Will Donahue plays some tough defense with his body on Sacramento State’s Heath Hoffman during the first half of the Mustangs’ victory Wednesday in Mott Gym.
Cal Poly center Will Donahue plays some tough defense with his body on Sacramento State’s Heath Hoffman during the first half of the Mustangs’ victory Wednesday in Mott Gym. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

There’s having confidence, and then there’s breeding confidence.

Dylan Royer has graduated to the second stage.

For the second straight game, the former Morro Bay High standout and Tribune County Player of the Year led the Cal Poly men’s basketball team in scoring, and Wednesday’s 77-51 rout of Sacramento State was like the good ol’ days in more ways than one.

Royer’s shooting was impeccable. Fifteen points on 5-for-5 shooting from 3-point range have teammates looking for the junior guard the same way they did when he was averaging 22.5 a game for the Pirates in 2007-08.

“I feel like Dylan was playing horse out there,” said Mustangs teammate Drake U’u. “I asked him at halftime, ‘When’s the last time you missed a 3?’ I think it was probably last year.”

Not quite.

A walk-on who played sparingly if at all in his first three seasons at Cal Poly (5-2), Royer is now being set up by teammates. He hasn’t been letting them down.

Including the previous game, a 72-55 victory over Mississippi Valley State on Saturday, Royer is 10 for his past 12 on 3-pointers — his current run of confidence dating back to a 14-point, 4-of-5 effort against UC Riverside in the Big West Tournament last season.

This season, Royer is averaging 7.8 points in 16.3 minutes per game. His accuracy from beyond the arc (58 percent) is by far the best on the team.

“My confidence is a lot higher,” Royer said. “It feels a little bit like high school. The guys are a lot bigger.”

Players agree there’s an adjustment period to playing Division I basketball. It takes a while to get comfortable enough to shoot without worrying about the consequence.

U’u has done so himself. Scoring nine points on 3-of-7 shooting Wednesday and averaging seven points per game this season, the junior swingman isn’t hesitating to take his shots.

“It’s good to get in the flow,” U’u said. “Sometimes, it’s hard not to think a lot, but once the first one goes down, you get that confidence, and instantly, you’re able to keep being aggressive and making shots. You just kind of get in a rhythm, and I think that’s really important.”

They aren’t the only Mustangs playing well right now.

Five Cal Poly players scored nine points or more, including senior center Will Taylor with 11 and six rebounds and senior point guard Amaurys Fermin with 12 points and six assists.

Fermin has 14 assists and only one turnover in the past two games, and Mustangs head coach Joe Callero has been happy with the production. After Fermin spent last season recovering from an ACL tear, the coach figured it would take a little longer for him to find a comfort zone.

“He’s got the game on a string right now,” Callero said, “and I think his play allows Dylan to pick his spots and David (Hanson) to pick his spots. We’ve been near or over 50 percent in the last three games, and that’s a credit to the head of the snake, Amaurys.”

In addition to his confidence, Royer also had a high-school flashback of another sort.

For a few minutes at least, Royer was matched up with former San Luis Obispo High rival Julian Demalleville, another former Tribune County Player of the Year and backup point guard for the Hornets.

In 10 minutes, Demalleville — a junior transfer from Monterey Peninsula College — was 2 for 2 with five points and an assist.

“He’s worked really hard to get to this point,” Royer said. “I’m super happy for him. We’ve been friends for a while, and although we wanted to shut him down tonight, for the rest of the year, I wish him luck.”

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