Byrd relishes Green Archers’ underdog tag
Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - August 24, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — La Salle’s active coaching consultant Jermaine Byrd said yesterday he realizes the Green Archers aren’t the team to beat in the coming UAAP men’s basketball season but playing under the radar is something the Houston, Texas, native prefers rather than calling attention to championship ambitions.

Byrd, 37, was recruited early this year by La Salle’s head of basketball operations Danny Seigle on long-time PBA import recruiter Paul Howard’s recommendation. Howard was the late Ron Jacobs’ best friend and is a former Arizona State star who lives in Los Angeles. Seigle assembled a brand-new coaching staff for the Archers with Byrd, Gian Nazario and MC Abolucion.

Working in Asia is nothing new to Byrd as he previously did skills development camps in South Korea and Japan. But taking control of a team far away from home in a collegiate league is a fresh challenge. Byrd said since arriving in Manila, he’s embraced the Filipino culture, the way the game is played here and the values of the La Salle institution.

“It’s a wonderful environment,” said Byrd. “I see myself involved in Philippine basketball for a long time. There are similarities and differences in how the game is played here and in the US. For me, I make no distinction among locals, Fil-Ams and imports. At La Salle, they’re all student-athletes. They’re students first and athletes second. My job is to make them better persons, better students and better athletes. I know what La Salle stands for. It’s an institution to be proud of and the passion that the administration, faculty, management, alumni and student body show in supporting the school is uplifting. We play for the school, not for ourselves. And it’s our mission to play up to the school’s high standards. Additionally, I want to give back to Boss Danding (La Salle patron and San Miguel Corp. chairman Eduardo Cojuangco, Jr.) whose all-out support for the La Salle program is an inspiration.”

Education is a priority with Byrd whose 70-year-old mother still teaches in elementary school in Houston. His late father was a cook. An older brother Willie was a pro basketball player in Europe for over 10 years and is now a car salesman. Byrd, a social science degree holder, has a 22-year-old daughter who’s an elementary school teacher and a five-month-old son.

Byrd said he’s not putting pressure on the team by setting lofty goals. “All we want is to be competitive and I know if we play together, we’ll surprise a lot of teams,” he said. “Our first game is against defending back-to-back champion Ateneo on Sept. 8. It’s a test to show where we are in our development.”

Byrd, who played point guard at the University of Sioux Falls, said he has until 48 hours before the start of the season to decide on La Salle’s final roster. Team captain Andrei Caracut is the only graduating senior but three players enrolled in Master’s courses are eligible to suit up just this season----Keyshawn Evans, Jamie Orme and James Laput. Newcomers expected to make the lineup are Joel Cagulangan, Josh David, Jordan Bartlett, Kurt Lojera, Ralph Cu and Ty Hill. Aside from Caracut, other returning veterans are Aljun Melecio, Justine Baltazar, Brandon Bates, Joaqui Manuel, Encho Serrano and Gabe Capacio. Also in the mix are Domm Lim, Francis Escandor and Christian Manaytay.

“We’re still a work in progress,” said Byrd. “We joined the Filoil Flying V preseason tournament and I think we shocked a lot of people by making it to the final. We played games in Dumaguete and Davao and did a bonding exercise in Tagaytay. Our guys are coming together. Everyone’s working hard. I’m looking forward to the start of the UAAP season. I’m excited and I can’t wait for it to start.”

Byrd apprenticed under Portland Trail Blazers assistant coaches Nate Tibbetts and Dale Osbourne, former Los Angeles Lakers coach Byron Scott and former Sacramento Kings and Memphis Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger when he was with the NBA G-League. “I’ve worked with players like Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kevin Durant and Jordan Clarkson,” he said. “That learning experience is something I’ve brought to La Salle. I’ve known Jordan since he was 18 playing at the University of Tulsa and when I was with the LA D-Fenders in the G-League, I worked with him, too.”

Byrd’s resume includes stints with Team USA at the Pan-American Games, University of South Florida and the University of Houston ladies varsity as assistant coach. He was formerly the University of Houston director of basketball operations and also did skills development work in Greece with former NBA players Anthony Goldwire, Darrel Middleton and Damon Jones.

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