by Jim Thacker (Sports Director, WSAZ, Huntington, W Va.)
That's how fans in the Mountaineer state today are referring to this 6'1" youngster who fought off the ravages of polio to become the highest scoring player in the state's history.
Leo was stricken with infantile paralysis at the age of twelve and staged a courageous recovery to normal health. That same courage was on display this year as Byrd led Huntington High's Pony Express to a 22 and 4 season and the championship game of the state Class "A" tournament. He broke just about every scoring record int he state and received more honors than any other player in the school's history.
As evidence of Byrd's greatness, he received more votes than any other all-state candidate and was named honorary captain of the All-West Virginia team. He was a unanimous choice for the all-state tournament tem following an amazing tournament performance.
His 128 points in the three state tourney games against the best competition around, far surpassed the old record of 93 pionts. Leo's remarkable scoring spree included single game outputs of 48, 49 and 31 points.
Over the entire season, Byrd scored 889 points for an averarge of 34.2 per game - a new state record bettering the old mark of 854 set in 1947-48 by All-American Mark Workman of Charleston. Six times Leo scored over forty points ina a single game and against Bluefield - one of the larger schools - he had 56.
Opponents went to great lengths to devise special defenses against the Express star, but Byrd produced. He's a cool player under pressure, an attribute brough out by the fact that he always reaches his greatest heights against the stiffest opposition.
Despite his prolific scoring, Leo is an excellent "team" man - coach Way calls his brilliant pupil a great leader. Captain in his Senior year, Byrd always turned in a magnificent floor game engineering the Huntington fast break, setting up teammates with his masterful dribbling,an placing high in the rebounding department.
The son of a Methodist minister, Byrd is a very serious minded young man who looks upon basketball as a game to be played winter, spring, summer, and fall.
Those close to this quiet, shy youngster will tell you his real attribute is desire. Byrd has spent endless hours of his spare time perfecting an all-around ability that enables him to discharge any assignment with efficient skill. This is another reason for Byrd's greatness - he plays equally well at guard, forward, or center.
Byrd's ambition is to be a basketball coach and he has all the earmarks of a great one.
Leo Byrd is a credit to the young men of West Virginia - on the basketball court and off.
Return to the North-South Cage Classic page.
If anyone has any additional information about this event or the persons involved, please .