Byrd moving on with focus on good memories

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Senior guard electing to spend final season playing at his father's alma mater, The Master's College outside Los Angeles, after four seasons in East Lansing.

A day after Michigan State lost in the Elite Eight to eventual national champion Connecticut, Russell Byrd had made up his mind.

The junior guard decided he would spend his final year of college basketball elsewhere, eventually settling on a school with family ties, playing time and a Christian focus: The Master's College in California.

He departs from East Lansing after four years that did not reach his expectations, but choosing to take nothing but positive memories of relationships built and experiences had with Spartan coaches and teammates.

"I'm incredibly grateful for everything they've done for me and obviously wish I could have done a little bit more for them," Byrd said. "I have nothing but great memories and gave what I could over the four years and I'm not going to take away any negatives."

The Fort Wayne, Ind., native said the conversation about possibly leaving after the 2013-14 season began in the fall with coach Tom Izzo, but were put on the backburner throughout the season.

"I didn't want to be distracted or distract anybody from the season and what our goals were as a team," he said.

But after the season came to a close, Byrd knew he wanted to find more playing time to get back to the player he knows he can be – the one before multiple foot surgeries hampered him.

"When anybody sits out or takes time out, you want to get back to how you can be and how you can play in any sport," he said. "I wanted to go to a place where I can play a lot, get experience over the next year, really work on my game and get better and get that confidence back and get that swagger back that you need to be a good basketball player.

"At MSU, obviously, it's a little harder to get 30-35 minutes a game. I think both sides, the coaches and myself, both were on the same as far as that's something that I wanted to pursue – a career – and by staying at Michigan State, you risk not getting that experience, so doing something that's a little bit more certain was a welcome idea on both sides."

Byrd spent time looking at his options to transfer. He visited Master's College in early May, visiting with family, family friends and meeting with the new basketball coach, Ken Sugarman.

"They are excited," Byrd said. "They just wanna provide me with the opportunity I'm looking for and they want to be a part of it and they know the family history involved with Master's."

So last week he settled on the school which his grandmother has been highly involved with, where his father played from in the 1980s and where his parents met. He will take with him longtime girlfriend Klarissa Bell, also a former Michigan State basketball player, as the pair will get married this summer.

"We definitely decided we were going to go down that road and she is going to come out there with me," Byrd said. "We are excited about everything and I'm really excited she is going to be in my life."

Admittedly, he will miss the relationships forged in the past four seasons as a Spartan with his teammates.

"They want what's best for me as well and they understand this is a good thing and they're definitely supporting me in that," he said. "I will miss them more than anything, the relationships I've got to build with those guys."

But with his soon-to-be wife by his side and a clean slate, Byrd is excited about one more year of college basketball and seeing what he can make of it.

"Hopefully, I will play a lot," he said. "I definitely don't want to walk in there and just expect anything. I will go to Master's expecting to earn whatever I can get. …

"Hopefully, we are gonna win quite a few games."

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