Royce O’Neale tours Utah during the 2019 Junior Jazz Road Trip

The gymnasium was filling up with the echoing thuds of basketballs against hardwood and chatty children when a young fan shared a quiet moment with his favorite player.

The little boy, Jory, walked up to Royce O’Neale and passed him a handwritten note.

“You are the GOAT,” the 7-year-old had scrawled.

A short while later, O’Neale made sure the young fan knew that an NBA player thought he was the greatest, gifting him an autographed shirt.

Moments like these are why O’Neale is happy to be traveling southeastern Utah this week on the first leg of the 2019 Junior Jazz Road Trip.

“I just love the opportunity to be around the kids, showing them they’ve got support from me,” O’Neale said. “Being able to give back and have fun.”

O’Neale has played games with—and dunked on—young Jazz fans in Salt Lake City, the Uinta Basin, Carbon and Emery counties, Moab and Monticello over the past few days.

“It’s really important,” O’Neale said. “When I was growing up, I wish I had things like this to go to.”

“Utah is a beautiful state,” he added. “The rocks, the scenery, mountains and everything. Just driving around being able to explore it all and have that opportunity is great.”

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