A look back at Russell Byrd's performance on the 2011-2012 Michigan State basketball team, and a look ahead at his potential contributions for the upcoming season.
For a guy who's been in the program for two years, we don't still don't have much to say about Russell Byrd. A foot injury at the end of his high school career and subsequent complications turned his freshman season into a redshirt year. The depth on this past season's squad, meanwhile, prevented Byrd from ever getting a real crack at meaningful playing time. Byrd saw a total of just 149 minutes on the court. The maximum number of minutes he saw in any game that ended with a single-digit margin was three.
Still, there are numbers, so we must analyse them. Table:
|Stat||Per 40 Minutes|
Byrd's non-shooting numbers were respectable enough, showing decent production across the board. (His tempo-free marks are also within normal operating parameters.) Izzo experimented with playing Byrd at the 4-spot at times, and he wasn't a glaring defensive liability there. At 6'7", his versatility is a definite plus going forward--although Branden Dawson's ability to move between the same two spots in the lineup (3 and 4) will be an obstacle to Byrd carving out a niche as the floater forward.
Ironically, Byrd's weakness on paper was in the area of his purported number one strength coming out high school: shooting the ball from deep. (It says something about how long we've been waiting to see Byrd contribute as a Spartan that that link goes to the old SW blog.) He converted only 27.3% of the 33 three-point shots he attempted. He certainly wasn't shy shooting the ball, taking a shot from the field every three and a half minutes he was on the court--but that's largely a function of seeing a lot of PT during garbage minutes when possessions weren't at a premium.
The head coach was sympathetic to Byrd's cause on that count:
How can a Russell Byrd only play a couple minutes when he's a shooter? But it beats the hell out of playing no minutes.
Izzo again, later in the season:
Russell is like a kid learning to walk again. It's been a year and a half and we've all been waiting for him to come back. Unfortunately it isn't going to happen this year like we'd hoped, but he is getting better.
And he likes what he's been able to see this summer:
The guy that probably took as big a step as anybody was probably Byrd. He looks like a shooter again. He looks like a guy that can get up and down the court again.
So we'll take comfort in the fact that Byrd's small subset of college numbers don't raise any issues to be alarmed about and that he has a pretty legitimate excuse for his slow development to date. As with every projected bench player we'll be looking at in this series, the main obstacle for Byrd in the upcoming season will be overcoming the fact that there will be 12 scholarship players competing for minutes come this November, all of whom have a legitimate shot at earning them.