By Chesley Oxendine
Kasey Byrd, 21, spent years on the bench before taking to the court in his senior year at Fort Gibson High School. Since then, he’s graduated (in 2010) and started attending Rhema Bible College in Broken Arrow — and become an award winning basketball player two years in a row.
“I never touched the floor all the way through my junior year,” Byrd said. “I was always the kid they brought on in the last 30 seconds of the game. Coming into this, I didn’t know if I’d make the team, but God brought me to this and blessed me through everything.”
A participant in the sport since sixth grade, Byrd proved Rhema’s top scorer his freshman year with a total of 482 points. He followed up with a second year total of 496, bringing him to a career total of 978 points over his first two seasons.
The sophomore pastoral studies major landed 57.6 percent of his normal shots, 35.3 percent of his three pointers, and 78 percent of his free throws, with an average of 17 points per game (a score that climbed to 20.8 for the second half of the season).
He also earned the title of All American Athlete in the Association of Christian College Athletics (ACCA) conference both his freshman and sophomore seasons.
Rhema’s Assistant Basketball Coach Jorell Henry praised Byrd’s consistency in both demeanor and ability.
“He’s very straightforward,” Henry said. “You know what you’re going to get out of him.”
That doesn’t mean Byrd stays in the same place skill-wise, however, the assistant coach said. In a year where many of Rhema’s bigger players were benched due to injury, Byrd took up the momentum in a variety of positions.
“Last year I think he was just feeling out where he belongs,” Henry said. “This year he stepped up to play a lot of different roles.
In the process, Henry said Byrd has improved his shooting, stemming a tide of three point shots for more attempts closer to the post.
“This year he’s realized he can do more than those long shots,” the coach said. “He realized he can get points without having to shoot threes. He’s more conscious of what he’s doing.”
Among these accolades and more, however, Kasey tries to remain aware of those years where he didn’t play much at all.
“Not playing taught me humility,” he said.
Still, the awards and praise don’t hurt his affection for the sport, Byrd said.
“I got into it because I was good at it,” he said. “It’s a really good stress reliever.