FORT WAYNE – D.J. Byrd has played alongside All-Americans and hes played alongside first-team All-Big Ten players.
The Purdue guard/forward is taking what hes gathered from those experiences into his senior season.
Ive been through a lot. Ive been a lot of places. Ive met a lot of people. Ive made a lot of friends, Byrd said last month at Big Ten media day. In terms of basketball, Ive learned a lot. Whether its from Chris Kramer coming in as a freshman, Keaton Grant, those guys. And then being able to watch JaJuan (Johnson), ETwaun (Moore) and Rob (Hummel), all those guys improve to All-American status. Its been a great run for me.
Its my last year around. Im going to do as much of the things that Ive learned from them to try to make it a great year.
Byrd was voted the Big Tens Sixth Man of the Year last season. He was the first Boilermaker to receive the award. The 6-foot-5 Crawfordsville native is expected to fill a larger role this season.
Theres no doubt well run more stuff for him, Purdue coach Matt Painter said at Purdue media day. In the past, we didnt run as much stuff for him just because we had guys like ETwaun, JaJuan and Rob that we ran stuff for.
Byrd has started fast, according to Painter. The coach said Byrd has been unbelievable in practice.
Byrd averaged 8.9 points and 2.3 rebounds in 2011-12. Byrd ranked eighth in the Big Ten in three-point field goals per game (2) and ninth in three-point field goal percentage (.430) on the way to making the All-Big Ten honorable mention list.
He reached double figures in scoring 16 times last season, including three performances of at least 20 points.
Being able to get open and get a good shot is the big thing for me, Byrd said. My percentages go up when I can get a good shot. Being able to work off screens and get myself in physical shape to do that for an entire game is my goal. Being able to take care of the ball, defend, rebound, those are always constant.
Byrd, along with Terone Johnson, has taken on the role of a team leader.
He brings everything to the team, Johnson said. Hes a scorer. He can play defense. He can rebound. Me and him have stepped into that leadership role and hes been great with that. Hes bringing energy to practice. Hes working harder than a lot of people. Thats a good thing for those freshmen to look up to.
Byrd is ready for all the role has in store.
Its a lot of work, but you try to do whats best for your team, Byrd said. Its being there for the young guys, really helping them out. Being vocal and leading by example is really important. The faster you can get young guys to really mature and really understand and get everybody going in the same direction, the real improvements start. I think weve done a really good job of that so far.