By LARRY VAUGHT
Roger Harden got to play with some terrific players at the University of Kentucky but insists one of the “greatest guys” he played with was 5-5 guard Leroy Byrd.
Nicknamed Baby Magic, Byrd had a brilliant prep career in Lexington at Bryan Station High School before signing with Nevada-Las Vegas. He was there one season before transferring and played his final three years at UK.
“He was short but he could play and fans loved him,” Harden said. “He was all energy. He could shoot from deep, pass, penetrate. He was just electric on the court.”
Harden said he was lucky to get to know Byrd’s parents and that he was “just a joy” to have on the team.
After the recent death of former UK coach Eddie Sutton, Harden talked to Byrd and one familiar story came up again.
Harden and Byrd were on the same team at practice before a game at Vanderbilt. Harden tried to throw an ally oop pass over 7-foot teammate Sam Bowie to Byrd that didn’t work. Then coach Joe Hall put Harden on the bench before eventually kicking him out of practice for trying to throw an ally oop pass to the 5-6 Byrd.
“Coach Hall said, ‘I want you to leave and get on the bus.’ The bus driver started to warm up the bus and Coach said, ‘Let him sit in the cold.’ Of course LeRoy told me if I had just put the ball up another inch or two higher he would have had it. And I’ve got no doubt he believed that.”
Byrd played in 22 games his final season in 1985-86 when UK went 32-4 and scored 41 points.