Tom Izzo has invested a lot of time into developing Russell Byrd's game
Russell Byrd was supposed to be Tom Izzo's next sharpshooter, something like a slightly less-athletic Chris Hill, but with more range.
Something like that, anyway.
However, after three years of knee and foot problems, Byrd has yet to develop into a reliable threat for the Michigan State Spartans. To no fault of his own, Byrd could end up as the Spartans' next "could-have-been," just like his former teammate, Delvon Roe.
While Roe found ways to combat the pain and turn in memorable performances based purely on adrenaline alone, Byrd seems to lack the type of demeanor that's necessary to complete a Roe-like comeback.
Sure, playing three minutes a game like he did during Saturday's 67-56 win over Texas won't allow Byrd to find his rhythm. But putting him on the court could be risky, too.
Is this year a make-or-break season for Byrd in terms of development?
It's a typical risk-to-reward scenario.
Izzo said before the game that Byrd had a "little sprain" in his ankle. Why put an already-fragile foot at risk? Why throw a liability on the floor?
Byrd is in strange territory.
He straddles a fine line.
Most would like to believe that he's indeed the accurate marksman from Indiana that Izzo recruited—he's just going through extended growing pains.
Others may feel that Byrd will never grow into what was expected.
He's been afforded three opportunities this season to log over 20 minutes in a game, but he's produced little results, thus failing to warrant more time.
Hitting the 30 percent mark from the floor was a problem during that three-game stretch against non-conference foes Texas Southern, Boise State and Oakland. So far, 30 percent would be a slight improvement upon his career shooting average.
Increase in Action but Same Results
Byrd's limited, usually half-inured minutes on the floor last season allowed for a 12-for-43 field goal success rate. This year, he's 12-for-41 However, he shot the three with more accuracy, ringing in 9-of-33 compared to 6-of-32 in 2012.
He's also seen an increase in minutes, leaping from 5.5 per game to 11.3 (149 total in 2011, 135 this year).
Depending on the status of his foot, Byrd could see more of the Spartans' Big Ten opener from the bench (more than he usually does) than from the court if he fails to produce. The host Minnesota Gophers will command Michigan State's full attention. Only those capable of contributing will be called upon by Izzo.
Creating opportunities for Byrd to integrate into the flow of things is surely on Izzo's to-do list. Byrd has a shot. He just has to find it.
And that's the tricky part.
Just how long can Izzo wait for Byrd to fill the void he was meant to fill? There are enough guards in East Lansing to compensate, but perhaps none possess the true dagger-like shot that Byrd was said to have.
New Year's Eve Big Ten opener against Minnesota is crucial for Michigan State, but it could be just as important to Byrd's career, which would receive a boost should a quality performance be turned in against the Gophers.
Follow Bleacher Report's Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81