Russell Byrd has decided to use his final year of college basketball eligibility somewhere other than Michigan State. Byrd will be transferring to The Master’s College, an NAIA school just outside of Los Angeles.
This means no more chorus of boo’s and arm-flailing bird motions from the Izzone when he checks into games at the Breslin Center, both of which I will miss dearly. What probably won’t be missed as much is his performance on the court.
Byrd came to MSU in 2010 as a top 100 recruit who was hyped to be the greatest outside shooter since J.J. Redick. That kind of pressure is tough enough on a kid, but Byrd also dealt with a myriad of injuries during his career.
Byrd never ended up materializing into the star he was supposed to be, despite all the anecdotes from Tom Izzo about how he never missed a shot in practice. Byrd was never able to get comfortable at Michigan State, and it wasn’t completely his fault.
When Michigan State basketball fans hear about someone with as much talent as Byrd, they expect to see results on the court. Due to injuries and lackluster play in his first couple years at MSU, Byrd quickly became the most heavily criticized player on the team. Fans would constantly badger him both during games as well as on social media saying how disappointing he was (using more colorful language than that). This is a perfect example of fans needing to realize that athletes, specifically college athletes, are people just like you and I.
In Byrd’s case he was simply a 20-year-old kid who wasn’t able to live up to his potential as a basketball player. Him knowing that he disappointed so many people wasn’t enough, fans had to constantly remind him of it. Once the environment at MSU became so hostile, it was impossible for him to be able to succeed there. Moving on to The Master’s College is the right choice for Byrd as he’ll be able to play a bigger role on the team and more than 2,000 miles away from East Lansing.
BYRD’S MOMENTS OF GLORY
Although Byrd played under seven minutes per game during his time at Michigan State, he did have a couple of shining moments in a Spartan’s uniform.
The first of Byrd’s highlights came on Jan. 28 of this year in Iowa City. The Spartan’s were coming off a tough loss against Michigan three days earlier, and desperately needed a win. With 34 seconds left in overtime, Byrd hit a corner 3-pointer to put MSU up by 6. MSU held on to win by two and Byrd got some love for the first time since putting on a Spartan uniform.
My personal favorite Russell Byrd moment came in the loss to Michigan on Jan. 25 of this year at the Breslin Center. Nothing was going right for MSU in that game and they were getting physically dominated all over the floor, until Russell Byrd came up with a huge block on a Glenn Robinson III shot. Byrd stood over Robinson after the play and taunted him as if he was Dikembe Mutombo. The fans went crazy as a scuffle ensued between Byrd and Robinson’s teammate Jordan Morgan.
That was such a memorable play to me because in that moment Byrd didn’t look dejected and lost, as he did most of the time he was on the court, he was confident and had swagger. If he could have carried that attitude on the court all the time (and made a few perimeter shots) he could have flourished at MSU.
Unfortunately we’ll have to settle for talking about what could have been for Russell Byrd at Michigan State.