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Behind Enemy Lines: Purdue guard D.J. Byrd

Patrick Barron/Daily
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By Colleen Thomas, Daily Sports Editor
Published January 23, 2013

Last season, the Michigan men’s basketball team was one home win away from completing an undefeated home record and sending then-senior guards Stu Douglass and Zack Novak out with a win on senior night.

But the Wolverines’ perfect night was spoiled by Purdue and their senior star Robbie Hummel, as the Boilermakers won the game, 75-61.

With Hummel’s leadership experience gone and an incoming class of talented freshmen — including Indiana natives A.J. Hammons and Ronnie Johnson, who currently are two of Purdue’s top four scorers — Purdue turned to senior guard D.J. Byrd to lead the young squad in what many have perceived as a rebuilding year for the Boilermakers.

The Daily got the chance to talk to the senior captain at Big Ten Media Day in October.

The Michigan Daily:What are the big challenges as a freshman coming into college basketball?

D.J. Byrd: First of all, there’s the physical toll of practice every day. It’s three hours a day, along with weights. You may not get necessarily get a lot of sleep every night, you have class, you have tutors, you have a lot of stuff your plate as a freshman. So taking care of all that and having to limit your distractions is very important. Our freshmen have done a good job of handling it so far, and hopefully they can improve every day.

TMD: You had to play a lot when you were a true freshman, were there ever any moments where it was a little bit overwhelming? Any particular phase of basketball that was difficult?

DB: Well the main thing was just managing your time, being able to get getting certain things done, whether you have to study for an exam, practice, then you had to go to dinner — you get to be a good planner. Luckily I had some good guys ahead of me, Chris Kramer as a senior, Keaton Grant, Rob Hummel that helped me out. That’s what me and the older guys have been doing, just trying to help those guys any way we can.

TMD: Your freshmen are obviously important this year, so what kind of things are the upperclassmen doing to help get them acclimated?

DB: You know ,you got coaches telling you so many things during practice, yelling at you, helping you, but I’m just being another guy that they can come ask about a play, something off the court — just being there and being open to whatever they have. I think is important just to have that between the coaching staff and (ourselves).

TMD: Is this group of freshmen wired to handle this stuff right away?

DB: Yeah, they’ve grown a lot in the past couple weeks. They’ve really gotten to where they plan ahead now. They had some experience in the summer — they got to do some classes on campus — but now with the season going on, it’s going to be pretty busy. They’ve done a good job so far, and they’re getting better, both on and off the court, and that’s what we need.

TMD: You’ve had a couple of good senior classes in the past, but what’s going make this year’s senior class different?

DB: Me and Dru (Anthrop) are a little different, but it’s all about helping the younger guys right now. Last year with Robbie Hummel, you have All-American type guys graduating, and this year it’s trying to help the younger guys get to where they need to be. For me, I’ve learned from those guys in the past — JaJuan Johnson, E’Twaun Moore, Kramer — and I’ve kind of learned a little bit from each in terms of knowing how to handle the team and how to help everyone on the team work to a certain degree every day. It can be hard on a young person, so I try to be a leader.

TMD: How would you define your leadership role to the freshmen?

DB: It’s not just the freshmen, it’s the whole team. But the freshmen coming in, it’s the most difficult for them. I try to be a coach on the floor, either by example or vocally, and be that guy they can come talk to if they don’t understand something.