FT. WAYNE - Michigan State has two verbal commitments for the 2009 recruiting class (Derrick Nix of Detroit Pershing and Garrick Sherman of Kenton, OH) and are awaiting replies which could fill one, and potentially two scholarships, depending on the responses from Noel Johnson and Richard Howell of Atlanta, GA and Jamil Wilson of Racine, WI.
However, the Spartan staff has moved to start recruiting the super talented 2010 class and recently extended what is believed to be its first offer to 16-year old Russell Byrd of Ft. Wayne (IN) Blackhawk Christian.
Byrd was spotted by Scout.com's Dave Telep after exhibiting major league range on his jumper in AAU competition for Blessed IJN in Indiana.
At the time, Telep remarked "When you've got a stroke as sweet as his you know there's a hoop at home (which we confirmed there is). This kid is the deal behind the line and with the 3-point line moving back, he'll be someone's weapon."
Michigan State is hoping that he'll be their weapon, but face some stiff competition from Baylor, Iowa, Indiana, Lousiville and Notre Dame, all of whom have extended offers to the 6-foot-5 sophomore who can stroke the basketball.
In addition, Michigan and Kentucky has also shown major interest.
Byrd confirmed the offer and said "it made me feel very good. Coach Izzo is a great coach and it made me feel good to be recognized by that kind of greatness."
He described how the MSU staff presented the offer, "they were in Akron (King James Jamboree) and their coaches got to see me play about four games. Then they came to my high school gym for an open gym a couple of days after the Akron tournament. They called my dad and coach Merritt and they wanted us to come up and visit kind of unofficial and see the place.
So we went up there and they showed us around a little bit and then Coach Merritt went into (Izzo's) office with my parents and the whole coaching staff and they extended the offer to me," said Byrd.
Despite the outstanding circumstances, Byrd did not commit to MSU, at least not yet. He and his parents are taking their time to fully evaluate which environment would be the best for their son. The family has their criteria and they're looking for a match as Byrd explained.
"I'm not quite (ready to commit) yet. There's a lot of stuff I need to work on and they believe that I can work hard and possibly be an asset for them. It was a good experience.
I'm a little hestitant about committing right now," explained Byrd. "I still want to look around at the options and opportunities I get now."
"Michigan State is definitely high on the list, it's Michigan State."
"I'm looking for how the relationship with the coaches might develop and the kind of program I'd be put into, like the offense, what their goals are as a program and what their goals are for me. So I've got to see all that, and navigate those waters and hopefully make a (good) decision," he stated.
The young star has gone on the record as saying he likes to get up and down the floor and one of the things he's looking for is a point guard who knows how to 'run the show', so to speak, so his next comments were particularly interesting, when we asked if he was the first player of the 2010 class that MSU has offered.
"I believe so. I think they have three scholarships to offer in my class, I think I'm the first to receive an offer," said Byrd, but when we mentioned a certain point guard from Detroit he said, "yeah, they talked about him too. I think they're close to making that offer."
Is it Keith Appling?
"Yes, I think that is was," said Byrd who said he was somewhat familiar with the Pershing star.
While the offer has been extended, like many star players, Byrd will wait until the end of this upcoming junior season to make a decision.
"I would hope (to decide) before the start of my senior season in high school just so I'd know where I was going and what I needed to work on and so I'd know what to expect, so probably before the beginning of my senior season."
He also says, he wants to be like other great Spartan players of the past and play at the NBA level. "That's my goal," he said.
"It sounds like a good living to make, playing at the highest level. Over the past year and a half that's kind of evolved into my goal. I'm trying to get to a place where, it would allow me the best opportunity to get there."
So MSU showed him a player who has successfully made the transition when former Spartan Paul Davis, currently playing for the Los Angeles Clippers, spoke to him.
"When I was on my visit there, they had a lot of videos of the other players that had gone (to the pros). I met Paul Davis and he talked to me about how Coach Izzo can develop those kinds of players.
How did the young 16-year old develop the kind of shooting touch and range that he has so early in his development as a player?
"(I'm) in the gym everyday almost, just working on it. Developing the kind of stroke that gives me the power that I need, but also the consistency and accuracy to be an "A" level shooter. I'm just everyday repeating the stroke - it may change, it's subject to change - but I have the same feel for it and I just keep repeating it."
Now that MSU has shown rapt interest in Byrd, look for them to move quickly to offer the second player in the class, Keith Appling, the point guard who is known to love Michigan State and who is looking forward to an offer.
But who might be in line for that third offer?
GSN outlines a few names who you may or may not have heard about. Get more in the Hoops Insight Message Board.
Spartans Chasing Sophomore Byrd
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