AKRON ? When SpartanMag.com last spoke with 2010 commitment Russell Byrd his confidence was soaring after a breakout performance at the NBA Players Association Camp.
Byrd's confidence carried over to the next event, The Vince Carter Skills Academy which took place in Orlando, Fla., the week after the NBA Players Camp. Byrd was one of the top shooters at the Vince Carter Skills Academy and he was also the primary ball handler for his camp team. Normally, Byrd would not be playing point guard, but he did at the camp which features only wing forwards and power forwards.
After two straight weeks of stellar play, the Michigan State commitment suffered a physical setback at the Lebron James Skills Academy when he incurred a hyper-extended knee in the first workout of the camp on Sunday.
"Going for a loose ball, I hyper extended my knee," Byrd explained, "At the same time I sprained my MCL. They have been keeping an eye on me and coach Eastman has been keeping an eye on me ? He pulled me out of the game tonight. I wanted to get back in there, but all of the guys are telling me to sit out and rest it."
Byrd's injury kept him from playing on Sunday and it also slowed him down on Monday, but the injury did not diminish the new-found confidence of the player ranked No. 75 in the Class of 2010. Although he played sparingly on Monday at the Lebron James Skills Academy, Byrd shot the ball with confidence when he did play.
"In Orlando and here we are really working a lot on moving the ball and playing as a team," said Byrd. "You don't get that many shots, but the ones I have been taking have been going in. I have had a lot of good feedback from the coaches about how hard I work in the workouts and how hard I go during the workouts. I am continuing to make shots and I am continuing to get better at the stuff they are teaching me."
Byrd buried a pair of clutch 3-pointers in a single-digit win for his camp team. Afterward, Byrd was enthusiastic about his shot and the confidence he has in game.
"I am definitely feeling as good about my game as I ever have," said Byrd. "Every shot I take is going to go in, that is my mindset. I am not chucking it up there and just pilling up shot attempts. I am really focused on making it and I have the mindset that every shot is going in."
Byrd is hoping to ride the success he has enjoyed during the last three weeks as long as he can. But he is aware that the wave he is riding right now will eventually crest.
"Every shooter is going to go through tough stretches and through some slumps," Byrd said. "What I have learned is how to deal with getting out of the slump."
Many of Byrd's goals for the Lebron Skills Academy are still in play depending on how his injury responds to the treatment from camp trainers.
"When I play I want to keep on doing what I have been doing," said Byrd. "I want to keep making a bigger name for myself and keep on earning respect. The other thing I really wanted to do is to make the global team and me not being able to play is frustrating because I need to play to make the global team."
The Top 30 players at the Lebron Skills Academy will have an opportunity to play later this summer at the Global Challenge against some of the premier young players from around the world. Although he is injured, Byrd will have a chance to prove that he belongs on his country's roster when he takes the court at Cleveland State for the King City Classic later this week.
VIDEO: BYRD IN WARM-UPS AND IN THE FIRST GAME MONDAY NIGHT
Click the links below to watch footage of Byrd in action at the Lebron James Skills Academy on Monday evening.
The first link takes subscribers to video of Byrd warming up on Monday night.
SpartanMag.com does not usually film player warm-ups, but the footage shows how confidently Byrd is shooting the basketball.
The second link takes subscribers to video of Byrd burying both of his 3-point shot attempts during the first half of the only scrimmage he played on Monday.