May 21, 2014, 12:12 PM EDT
Michigan State’s Russell Byrd is leaving the program to transfer to The Master’s School, an NAIA program in Southern California, for his final season of eligibility.
Byrd was a borderline top 100 recruit coming out of high school, a 6-foot-7 sharpshooter from Ft. Wayne, In., that Tom Izzo brought to East Lansing in the Class of 2010.
But Byrd was never able to play his way into the Spartan rotation. He redshirted his first year on campus as he dealt with a foot injury that required three surgeries in the span of a year, never recovering the athleticism he had in high school.
More importantly, however, he never regained the confidence that he had. As Graham Couch of the Lansing State Journal details in this story, the biggest reason that Byrd is leaving the program is that he needs a fresh start, a chance to begin his basketball career anew where he can play 30 minutes a game without having the pressure of four seasons of disappointments hanging over his head:
“I get out (to California), I’m away from the negativity that’s always in the back of my mind,” Byrd said. “I’m away from my own doubt.
“I feel like, sometimes when I’m at the gym or Breslin, I doubt myself because of just not living up to the hype and failing in games, and not performing through a bunch of negative media. That’s been hard for me, it really has. People say just don’t read it or just don’t listen to it; that’s hard to do. So I’m away from it, I’m more free and can just play basketball.
“I always wanted to figure that out here. I always wanted to conquer it and perform and be the player I could be, and I could never quite figure it out.”
I’d encourage you to read Couch’s entire story, as it’s an interesting look into just the kind of mind games that can occur when a high-profile recruit fails to live up to the expectations that he had coming out of high school.
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