July 9, 2009

Byrd plays through pain, Payne plays big

CLEVELAND - Four players with Michigan State recruiting implications participated in the NIKE King City Classic, Wednesday, and two of them - Russell Byrd and Adreian Payne helped a team advance to Thursday morning's semifinals.

Byrd, an MSU commitment for 2010, and Payne, an MSU recruiting target for 2010, contributed to "Team Connecticut" in a 117-112 quarterfinal victory over "Team Villanova," during action at the Wolstein Center on the campus of Cleveland State University.

On the other side of the bracket, 2010 recruiting target Trey Zeigler and 2011 recruiting hopeful Carlton Brundage played for a "Team North Carolina" squad which came up short in the quarterfinals.

With Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo and Spartan assistant Dwayne Stephens in attendance, joining at least a hundred other Division 1 head coaches and assistants, Byrd battled through knee pain and didn't miss a shift. He didn't shoot as well as he would have liked, going 2-of-9 from the floor, including 1-of-7 from 3-point range.

Byrd, ranked No. 75 by Rivals.com, finished with 5 points, 6 rebounds and two assists.

"I have taken four Advil before every game," Byrd said. "I'd say I'm at about 70 percent (health). I just can't move the way, athletically, that I want to."

Byrd suffered a sprained MCL ligament on Sunday, and tweaked it on Monday, causing him to miss action on both days. He didn't expect to play on Tuesday, but he managed to get on the court anyway, and actually played pretty well.

"I taped it up yesterday and I had five threes in our scrimmage," Byrd said on Wednesday night. "I was kind of hobbling, getting open and knocking them down."

But the shots didn't fall during Wednesday's quarterfinals.

"I guess it's the slump I was talking about possibly getting in," Byrd said. "Now I'll just keep shooting them. I went a month straight where I didn't miss anything and then all the sudden I get here and it's not a confident stroke right now. I had as good a four or five weeks as anyone out here, to be honest with you. But I don't like this, being here and not playing like I had been playing."

The good news is that he has a chance to play again Thursday morning in the semifinals of NIKE's revamped elite tournament format. Earlier in the week at this year's Lebron James Skills Academy, roughly 90 players were divided into eight teams for practices, play-installation and scrimmaging.

Then the players traveled to Cleveland for this single-elimination, eight-team, two-day tournament.

Payne and Byrd were assigned to "Team Connecticut."

Payne, ranked No. 20 in America by Rivals.com, scored on a picture-perfect post move over 6-foot-8 Mike Shaw of Chicago. Payne faked to the middle with two dribbles and then countered back with his left (off) hand for a wonderful glasser. He used every bit of his considerable wingspan, and did it quickly. It was a very hard shot to stop.

Later, he scored with a good, quick right-handed jump hook. He says he has worked hard to hone those skills, but players all over the country work hard on skills and don't come close to the polish this guy flashes from time to time. And he's doing it at 6-foot-10, with long arms and good hops and good timing and good hands. There is something about him that just makes him seem like a natural.

Payne finished with 8 points (on 4-of-5 shooting) and five rebounds.

Camp rules dictate that all players receive equal amounts of playing time through the first 90 percent of the game. A starting five plays for roughly five minutes and then camp rules dictate that a new five-man playing group check into the game. Payne sat out the first two shifts as the 11th man.

With 11 players sharing equal minutes, it's conceivable that a team can approach 100 points in a game with no one scoring more than 15 and only one or two players in double figures.

Byrd had an off scoring night but his last field goal was a big one. With his team up by a point and less than five minutes to play, he grabbed an offensive rebound and went up strong and quick on the other side of the rim for a reverse lay-up, giving "Team Connecticut" a 104-101 lead. He then checked out for the remainder of the game.

"It's tough staying with guys, side to side (with my knee)," Byrd said. "But I'm going to be playing through injuries at Michigan State, I bet, so I just have to suck it up and push through."


Zeigler, a 6-foot-5 combo wing from Mount Pleasant, had 4 points and 7 rebounds in "Team North Carolina's" 108-84 loss to "Team Syracuse."

Brundage, a rising junior from Southfield High, had 8 points on 4-of-6 shooting.

"I just arrived at the camp yesterday," Brundage said. "I missed the first two days because I had (AAU) practice earlier in the week with The Family."

His teammates on "Team North Carolina" learned plays during heavy installation periods earlier in the week at the Lebron James Skills Academy.

"I missed out on that and there were a lot of plays that I didn't really know, and some of my teammates don't know me well enough to know my game or know if they can trust me," Brundage said. "So that made it a little hard. But this was a good experience, and I look forward to playing more tomorrow and coming back next year."

The thick-bodied, 6-foot Brundage scored with his trademark spin in the lane for a glasser against Keala King, a 6-foot-5 guard from Compton, Calif. who is ranked the No. 35 senior in America.

In the second half, Brundage executed another spin move in going around Top 10 junior Marquise Teague of Indianapolis.

Later, Brundage scored on a pump fake and take, probably getting away with sliding his pivot foot.

His fourth field goal came on a lay-up off a drive-and-dish from a teammate.

Zeigler scored on a put-back, and also on a driving, adjusting suspension shot over 6-foot-11 junior Malcolm Gilbert of New Orleans.

"I just try to make the right play," Zeigler said. "A lot of guys have struggled doing that in this thing, but that's my motto, I want to make the right play, whether it's me scoring or me dishing off to a guy.

"I felt I played okay. I wish I would have played a little bit better. I kind of struggled a little bit in some ways. I had some shots I should have made in the second half."

The seven rebounds look good.

"That's just natural for me because I guard bigger wings and guards sometimes to that brings me to the paint and I just try to do what I can," he said.

Fellow Michigander Ray McCallum joined Brundage and Zeigler on "Team North Carolina." McCallum - a point guard from Detroit Country Day - had trouble defensively, initially, on Teague, but Teague is going to have that effect on a lot of guys. McCallum finished with six points on 2-of-8 shooting. He was 2-of-5 from 3-point range in a solid outing.

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