When it comes to his star shooting guard, Russell Byrd, Blackhawk Christian Coach Gary Merrell is seeking to bring out the inner animal.
"He tells me he wants me to be a dog," Byrd said. "I keep working at being the dog."
Merrell feels like his talented junior-to-be too often backs away from contact.
"I don't want to be soft," Byrd said.
It could be one of the few criticisms you can find for Byrd, a rising 2010 recruit from Fort Wayne, Ind. The 6-foot-5, 175-pound shooting guard has scholarship offers from Indiana, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Baylor, Louisville and Iowa. The Hawkeyes are coming hard as they have been for the last year.
Byrd unofficially visited Iowa City in September and left town with a scholarship offer.
"They're definitely, probably, on top with the relationship that they've tried to build and how much they keep in contact and with some of the goals they have for me and the team when I get there," Byrd said of how the Hawkeyes sit with him. "So, I like them a lot."
Being from Indiana, Byrd noticed the success Lickliter, Jordan and Cornette enjoyed at Butler before coming to Iowa.
"You could tell what they did at Butler was great," Byrd said. "I didn't follow it very closely, but I definitely knew what he was doing down there."
Byrd is like a cliché of the Indiana basketball junkie. He works on his game whenever he can find the time.
"I love the gym," he said. "It's my second home."
While Byrd has risen quickly in the eyes of scouts, he's not resting on his accomplishments.
"I want to reach my goal, which is to play at the highest level in the NBA," he said. "I like the competition. I'm a competitive guy. I want to win. And I want to give myself the best opportunity to do that."
Byrd plans to hit a few college camps before the AAU circuit heats up next month. He'll attend Kentucky's camp this weekend and Iowa's Elite Camp on June 21-22.
"I enjoy it a lot," Byrd said of the recruiting process. "It's just fun to see the benefits of how hard I've worked; what that brings."
Byrd expects to attend the Reebok All-American camp at the beginning of July before heading to the Peach Jam in West Virginia and the Orlando Super Showcase.
Byrd keeps pushing himself to improve and seems pretty level headed and mature for a person you just completed his sophomore year of high school.
"I'm a Christian and I have a clear picture of what matters most in life," he said. "God blesses you with a lot of things, but you have to make the most of what he gives you."
Ball handling, defense and mid-range shooting are the areas on which Byrd is working most these days. He also is trying to improve as an all-around player and improve his strength.
"I've shown that I can shoot, but I want to show people that I can do other things," Byrd said. "
Byrd feels like he'll wait until next summer before he chooses a college. He wants to complete his final season of AAU.
Byrd is very close to his family and that could play into his college choice.
"Distance will be a factor," he said. "That's what makes Michigan State so attractive. They're only an hour and a half away. But that's not a knock on the other schools. I'm going to go to the place that is the best overall situation for me."