As a kid David Byrd had to live with the legend of the Crawfordsville´s monster in his quaint 15,000 inhabited town of Crawfordsville, Indiana. It was described to have been constructed of a cloud with red glowing eyes. Over the years, it has been believed to have been a flock of birds huddled together in confusion due to the town’s newly installed electric street lights. This creature was described to be about eighteen feet long and eight feet wide and moved quickly through the air by way of several pairs of side fins. The legend of the monster gained national exposure as it was featured on the history channel and was featured on the television series Monster Quest. This all happened in 1891 a long time ago, but scary legends often can stay in the minds of kids. When Byrd went to Purdue, possibly the only frightening thing he had to encounter was young crazy college kids vomiting at a college party out a window and accidently catching remains down below as one was strolling down the walk way, or having to withstand the hustle, grit and pit bull defense of Chris Kramer in practice. Now as a rookie, the American who hails from Indiana and has the same last name as Larry Bird just spelled a bit differently the 23 year old 196cm swingman is starting his professional basketball journey in the small 39,000 populated Kirchheim in the south of Germany and the only thing he may have to be afraid of is running into a ghost at the castle Teck or running into 110 kilo 213 cm big man Bjoern Schoo in the lane, but so far he hasn´t been afraid of anything at least not on the court as he is showing a fine transition from the NCAA to the German PRO A as he is averaging 13,4ppg, 4,0rpg and 1,1apg and is shooting a whopping 45% from downtown. Sometimes the barren landscape of Russia or a smoggy city in Asia can scare a player, but his new home Kirchheim suits him fine. “There are more cornfields and open flat land in my hometown. The hills and mountains of the Kirchheim area are beautiful in all months of the year. We don’t have that type of terrain where I’m from”, added DJ Byrd. The American who played against top competition in the NCAA isn´t disappointed to be going to a lower league in Germany and his decision making was helped with ex teammates like Chris Kramer and Keaton Grant who are making a living in Germany. “It definitely helped my decision knowing that some of my former teammates were able to live abroad and enjoy doing what they love. This was an opportunity I couldn’t afford to pass up and I’m glad I chose to experience it. They have been a nice resource for me during my first year overseas. I don’t think it’s a step backwards at all. Depending on the team you play for, you have to be able to take a certain role if you want to be on a successful team. I was able to play a role at Purdue, and now, although I may have a different role here, I’m still trying to do what the team needs me to do. This division of Germany has some great players and is a nice place to start a professional basketball career”, stressed Dj Byrd.
So far the American has experienced a crazy first two months in the German Pro A as the 7-3 record of Kirchheim might not seem out of the ordinary, but what is is that teams from second to seventh place all have a record of 7-3. Byrd has been integrated well into the team and already had some big games in the first month as he contributed 28 points in 33 minutes against the ETB Wohnbau Baskets Essen and saw his first NBA type result in the 113-101 win against Science City Jena where he steered 21 points to the win. Those type of results do happen in the Pro A. It was a high scoring game, but just another game where he could learn more about how the style in Europe works. “I think it’s because that’s the way Jena likes to play. They pull full-court press the entire game, try to score quick off rebounds and turnovers, and crash the offensive glass. They try to speed the game up as much as possible and when that happens, there are a lot of offensive and defensive breakdowns throughout the game. We were also able to shoot a good percentage from the field that night. We knew if we could get by their press, we could get layups and open shots”, added Byrd. Not every player from across the pond can make the cool adjustment to different rules and a varied way how the refs call games, but the Indiana native is coping well. “At the very beginning I was having trouble with the traveling rule, as I think most Americans tend to encounter. But after a few weeks and working on my footwork, it hasn’t been an issue. One of the major differences is the length of the shot clock. Pro A basketball has a faster pace and you must be ready to shoot, pass, or drive at any moment. Compared to the 35-second shot clock in the NCAA, where you have a lot more time to get a good shot. Other than that I’ve seemed to mesh in pretty well”, said Byrd. He already seems to be a type of go to guy in the early part of the season, but possibly a right approach isn´t thinking that one is a rookie and just taking that passed experience? “I try not to think of myself as a rookie. Yes, there are a lot of things I have learned over the past couple months, but I still try to do the same things; play hard, play relaxed, and play with passion. The good thing about Kirchheim is I don’t have to put any pressure on myself because we have a lot of guys on our team that can be a top scorer on any given night”, commented Byrd. An important aspect to team play is having a good relationship with your teammates and often a player has their own neat story and teammate Bryan Smithson has been out of basketball for four years, but his play doesn´t support that. “I’ve gotten to know Bryan pretty well over the last couple months, and after learning his story and all he’s been through, I have a lot of respect. He’s battled through injuries and persevered through a lot of adversity. He’s been a great playmaker for us so far and he hasn’t even peaked his potential.”, expressed Byrd. The hot shooting of Byrd in the early going may support the idea that he is only one dimensional, but he can help his team in many ways. “In college, I mainly played the role of a spot up shooter. During the offseason and especially here in Germany, I’ve been working on getting back to being a ball-handler and slasher. I’ve lost about 10 lbs since last season, which has allowed me to be quicker on my feet and jump higher. I’ve also established myself so far this season as a ball handler and pull-up jump shooter. I still try to expand my game everyday”, stated Byrd. At Purdue he saw a high scoring explosion of ex Fraport Skyliner Kevin Foster as he dropped 34 points against the Boilermakers. Keeping that player in the zone is a hidden strength in the game of Byrd. “I try to help my team notice a hot hand. It’s kind of hard to explain but when we’ve had a guy hit a couple shots in a row or a big man who can post up and score at will, it only makes sense to give them more opportunities to score. I’ll try to set screens to get the guy open, or get the ball in the post so they can try and score”, warned Byrd.
The whole high school experience is always an important stepping stone for any young kid as he makes the jump to the next level college. Often it is the freshman year where one can see if that kid has the right approach to having a successful college experience. Sometimes for a talented young player, the basketball part often weighs most in high school or college, but for Byrd, he had the ultimate high school time. He was the leading scorer at North Montgomery averaging 25ppg, 9rpg and 3apg as a senior. “I have great memories from high school, both with my school team and through AAU. I really enjoyed being a part of North Montgomery because of the support of the fans and the will of my teammates. We had grown up playing together, and although I wish I could have done some things different, we won a lot of games and had some great experiences. AAU was also a great opportunity for me to travel the country and play basketball against the best players in the country, many of which are in the NBA today”, added Byrd. In 2009 he came to Purdue and as a freshman played 29 games averaging 2,6ppg in 9,4 minutes per game. Some of his freshman highlights included scoring in double figures three times, played against Duke in the NCAA Sweet 16 and contributed nine points off the bench against Alabama. It was no secret that he had stiff competition on the roster and had amazing teammates like Keaton Grant Chris Kramer and future NBA players Jajuan Johnson and Etwan Moore. The memories of having teammates who showed him the ropes seem endless. “When I came in as a freshman at Purdue, practice was filled with talented and high level guys who showed me what it took to be a Boilermaker. It took me some time to get adjusted to the college game and to find my role, but with the help of a combination of players, I feel that it helped me improve. Chris Kramer showed me how to sacrifice for the team. He didn’t try to keep a certain average of points or stats. He did what the team needed him to do, and that’s why he was successful there. I noticed the passion and perseverance of Robbie Hummel. I saw JaJuan and E’Twaun constantly in the gym working on their game. Along with many other players that would set an example for me, both good and bad”, stated Byrd. Just being able to play against Duke in such an important game helped him mature as a player. That team had so many great players with future NBA players like Lance Thomas, Miles Plumlee or Jon Scheyer. “At the time of the Duke game I was playing an undersized power forward position. I think experience against many of these teams and players was a great opportunity for me. Maybe not during the game, but watching film in preparation for the game, you tend to focus on those high-level players. And yes I remember the game because Nolan Smith scored 7 straight points to give them a lead we couldn’t recover from late in the second half”, stressed Byrd.
Byrd was able to improve his scoring each season at Purdue and in his second season he played 34 games averaging 5.2ppg, 3.0rpg, 2.0apg, FGP: 35.9%, 3PT: 33.9%, FT: 63.0%. He had 22 starts and averaged 20,6 minutes per game. Some of the highlights that season were Leading the Boilermakers in steals and blocks four times each, rebounds three times and assists twice . He scored in double figures six times and notched a career-high 16 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out three assists in the home win over Illinois. He scored 11 points and hauled in a career-high nine rebounds in the win at Indiana. In his second season he could only watch ex teammate Chris Kramer from a far as he was a rookie with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, but his memories of the current Beko BBL player were great as he did so many amazing things at Purdue like sitting on the floor and making a basket or many more. “When we played in the US Virgin Islands my freshman year, he dove for a ball at half court, slid on his stomach to almost the 3 point line, and was able to knock the ball out of the hands and off the foot of Tennesee’s point guard. The ball went out of bounds and gave us the possession. The video of it is incredible”, stressed Byrd. As a junior, the American played played 33 games averaging 8.9ppg, 2.3rpg, FGP: 41.9%, 3PT: 43.0%, FT: 76.0%. His all around worth to the success of Purdue grew substantionally as he led Purdue in scoring three times and scored in double figures 16 times, including three 20-point performances. Some big games for Purdue included Leading Purdue with 20 points against Ohio State in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament, added 10 points in the win over Nebraska at the Big Ten Tournament, registered 12 points, five rebounds and three assists at Indiana and had 14 points and six boards in the home win over Penn State. These games were all no fluke as he also had a career high 24 points against Ohio State and 15 points against Indiana. His biggest achievement in his junior year was becoming the first ever Boliermaker All-Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year. As a junior he scored 10 points against Kansas in the NCAA tournament. NBA player Thomas Robinson played for Kansas. He had a pretty disappointing rookie season with the Sacramento Kings. He had a very strong NBA Summer League with the Portland Trailblazers with 10 and 12 boards. He remembers the game well and thinks that the time of the big man will still come in the NBA with Portland. “Well, as an aspiring basketball analyst one day, I can say that it depends on the health of LaMarcus Aldridge. Thomas Robinson has showed flashes of being an efficient rebounder, passer, and even scorer given the right night. With his athleticism, his rookie year behind him, and being on a new team I think he can definitely have a breakout year. As for our game against Kansas, the toughest loss I’ve taken in my career”, stated Byrd.
As a senior his time really came as he started in 33 of the 34 games he played averaging 10.2ppg, 4.1rpg, 2.7apg, FGP: 43.8%, 3PT: 36.2%, FT: 80.0%. He led Purdue in steals 10 times, assists eight times and scoring and rebounds six times each. He scored in double figures 21 times, including a pair of 20-point games. Some of his most memorable games included 22 points against Clemson hitting six three pointers, 22 points against Wisconsin, 17 points, five rebounds and four assists against west Virginia, or 14 points against Michigan State. He most likely will never forget his16 points, five boards and five assists against Villanova at Madison Square Garden. “Playing at Madison Square Garden was something I had always wanted to do. I’m extremely grateful that Purdue was able to play a preseason tournament there. Although the results of the games I played in there weren’t what we wanted, it was a great experience to play in one of the most famous arenas in the world”, added Byrd. He finished his career ranked sixth in program history in three-point field goals (195) and 10th in games played (130). He placed third in the Big Ten in three-point field goals per game (2.3) and 13th in three-point field goal percentage (.362) in overall games. He finished second in the Big Ten in three-pointers per game (2.6) and ninth in three-point percentage (.390) in league play. He also led the team with 18 charges as a senior. His ex teammate Chris Kramer is an ace at taking charges and Byrd fed off that talent as a freshman watching the Oldenburg player work his magic. “Chris was very good at taking charges and yes that was something I tried to do as much as I could. Both Ryne Smith and I were able to take a lot of charges in our career. Mainly because we weren’t going to block anyone’s shot and the odds of us stripping the ball without being called for a foul were slim. Plus it’s a great way to change or maintain momentum during a big game”, commented Byrd. The American finished his career playing 128 games averaging 6,7ppg in his four year career and is thankful for having a fine teacher like head coach Matt Painter. “Coach Painter taught me a lot about what it takes to be a great team. His main rules were to play hard and don’t turn the ball over. If you could do that and play your role, you could pick your minutes. I still implement that in my game today”, said Byrd. His four year career at Purdue was long and he experienced so many plays, but he does remember his toughest opponent and his most crazy shot that he took in a game. “This is tough because we’ve played against so many good teams and great players but I would have to say most recently Trey Burke. His ability to not only handle the ball, score the ball, and defend, but the way he was able to involve his entire team of shooters and big men to make a run to the NCAA Championship game. This is also tough because me, my friends Dru Anthrop and Ryne Smith, have made videos of crazy kinds of trick shots. But one game my junior year vs. Northwestern I drove and spun in the lane, got fouled, and threw the ball over my head and it went in”, smiled Byrd. He hasn´t had much problems getting used to the lifestyle in Germany either so his rookie season so far off the court has been a breeze. “After getting used to some of the minor differences, it’s not that much different than living in the states. Most people speak just enough English, food here is good, and with social media I can still keep in touch with family and friends, which has been a huge help”, said Byrd. One thing is for sure, that the American won´t see the Crawfordsville monster in Kirchheim and most likely a ghost at castle Turk and have to be afraid, but if his play continues to rise, then teams will have to be afraid of the rookie.