It’s only a matter of months since Brittany Byrd signed a contract to play with The Address UCC Glanmire for the upcoming MissQuote.ie Super League season. The job of bringing her here goes back much further than that.
The way Byrd tells it, the club has been fluttering its eyes at her since before the pandemic. Jordan Blount, now back in Cork with C&S Neptune, is a fellow UIC Flames graduate and he was a sounding board as she picked up grains of knowledge about the club, the city and the style of basketball.
“Everything he said has been accurate,” said Byrd.
That she wasn’t here sooner owes itself to a journey that has known staging posts in some of the most unlikely of places. It was Byrd’s dream to play pro ball and to travel abroad and she has indulged both passions liberally since graduating from the University of Illinois in Chicago in 2019.
There have been stints in domestic leagues Stateside but her first foreign posting was with a Syrian club, Al-Sahel from the city of Tartus, on a short-term basis. That called for a short stay in the club’s home base before a month-long tournament in Dubai. An interesting start given the civil war that has ravaged Syria for so long.
“I really was nervous but I kinda got used to it after a while. I was only there for a week or two and the only thing I really did was leave the hotel for practise and come back home. I did that for two weeks straight and then we left to go to Dubai so I didn’t go outside that much but I felt safe. The girls and everybody else made me feel safe.”
That aside there have been two stints with Algodoneras de la Comarca, a club based in the northern Mexican city of Torreón, and a spell with the No Fear team in Nicaragua where they went undefeated - and she earned the league MVP award – up to a championship decider which they lost.
All of these experiences and cultures have been embraced, on and off the court, by the 5’ 9” guard and there is an obvious optimism to what lies ahead under coach Mark Scannell and in a league which, given her experiences so far, she expects to be physical.
That’s fine. It suits how she plays.
Scannell’s communication skills are another good fit. Byrd has found it easy to digest and enact what it is her coach wants of her and her new team and she’s comfortable with the pressure that comes with their status as last season’s all-conquering side.
Plenty has changed since they claimed the hat-trick of league, National Cup and Champions Trophy: Byrd is one of two new Americans on board, Claire Melia has made a switch to Trinity Meteors, while Claire O’Sullivan is back.
Byrd led her college team in scoring in her sophomore, junior and senior years, averaging 11.2 points per game in over one hundred games and she understands all too well the onus that comes with being an overseas player.
“What I think I need to bring to this team is leadership. I’m not saying we lack for leadership. I’m saying I feel like, me personally, coming here and being a scoring guard, leadership will play a big part.
“Not just scoring, I need to play defence and get on myself as well as the girls. Communication. I’m really good on communication. I talk a lot on defence, on offense. I try to give little pointers to the girls when we’re playing.
“Just really encouraging my teammates to keep pushing and keep going. This team, I feel like we will be so tough to beat. I feel like we won’t ever give up if we’re down and keep going. We won’t back down if we’re down five or ten.”