COVINGTON -- Caleb Byrd, the state of Georgia’s most prolific scorer with a basketball in his hands, is coming home.
A former standout at Edwards Middle School in Conyers, Byrd spent his freshman season of high school ball playing at Heritage during the 2016-17 season, where he saw action in six games and scored a total of eight points.
Following two seasons at Rome High School from 2017-2019, where he led the state in scoring as a junior with an average of 35 points per game, Byrd announced his return home, this time to sport the blue and white of Newton High School in Covington.
“I wanted to come back home and spend my last year here,” Byrd said. “Just being able to get back home close to my family for them to be able to support my last year is what I wanted. Also, Newton has had some really good basketball seasons in the past. Being able to compete on the 7A level against the best teams in the state is something I really wanted to do.”
Recently ranked as the fourth-best point guard in the state of Georgia for the class of 2020 by Kyle Sandy of Sandysspiel.com, Byrd said his time spent at Rome was more than he could have ever asked for.
The 6-foot-2 guard nabbed several awards in his two seasons as a wolf, including Region 7-AAAAA Player of the Year last season. He was also named the Rome News-Tribune/Seven Hills Rotary Christmas Tournament MVP after scoring 35 points in the championship game against Model.
“It wasn’t a tough move,” said Byrd, who left his hometown of Conyers for the first time in his life three years ago. “It was pretty easy. I really gelled with my teammates and had two really good years. Leading the state in scoring last year was great.”
Aside from helping Rome reach the second round of the playoffs as a junior, the program’s first playoff appearance since 2015, leading the state in scoring was what he was the most proud of.
“I scored nearly 1,000 points last season,” Byrd said. “I averaged 38 points per game the first half of the season. In the second half, I averaged 34 points per game. I had a really great experience doing that and being able to take over every game. That’s when I started blowing up towards the end of the season. I got a lot of scholarship offers and playing on the Adidas Circuit helped me blow up more. It was a really good year.”
For his tremendous junior season, Byrd was named to the All-State first team for Class 5A.
Byrd said between his great play for Rome and his play with Game Elite Adidas Gauntlet during the offseason, his recruitment has reached new heights. Byrd currently holds offers from Appalachian State, Wofford, Murray State, Middle Tennessee State and more.
“I’m sitting on about 18 or 19 Division 1 offers right now,” Byrd said. “I’m still kind of deciding on what I want to do, but I’m still open for recruitment. I’m still taking it day by day.”
Byrd will join a Newton squad fresh off a trip to the Sweet 16, but will be without the likes of Tre Clark, Armani Harris and Tyrease Brown, all of whom will play at the next level. Clark will play for VCU, Harris will play for Kennesaw State and Brown will play for Fort Valley State.
Knowing the talent level that has come out of the Conyers, Covington area in recent years made Byrd’s decision to finish out his high school career close to home that much easier.
“Seeing everyone that has gone D-1 and that is going to school for basketball, football or whatever it is, that’s great,” Byrd said. “Especially for me to come back and play with the guys that I’ve grown up with for awhile.”
Of the players currently listed on Newton’s roster for the upcoming 2019-20 season, Byrd named senior Shawn Smith and sophomore TJ Clark as the two he knows the best.
“I’ve known Shawn since middle school,” Byrd said. “We used to play against each other when I was at Edwards and he was at Clements. I’ve also known Tre Clark’s little brother, TJ since about the second or third grade.”
With Smith expected to earn one of the two starting roles in the Rams’ backcourt, Byrd said the idea of having both he and Smith on the court together should make for some exciting basketball.
“It’s really exciting just because it’s our senior year, of course and we really want to go out with a bang,” Byrd said. “I feel like it’s really great for us to collab and have a really good backcourt this upcoming season.”
Byrd also mentioned his excitement to work with first-year head coach Charlemagne Gibbons, who replaces Rick Rasmussen.
“He’s a great coach,” Byrd said. “Workouts have been going very well. He’s really good overall. I’ve known coach Gibbons for a little while. I’ve been hearing a lot about him, but I’m just now meeting him. He’s just a really good coach from what I’ve seen thus far.”
As far as a team and personal goals go, Byrd is shooting high.
“I’m really just trying to win the region championship, win state and put a banner up,” Byrd said. “I’m working on knowing where to be off the ball on defense. I’m just trying to get better overall. I’m a really great shooter, so I’ll continue to keep perfecting that, but defensively wise, I really want to get better at that.”