A lot of basketball programs follow the tradition of starting all the team’s seniors in the final home game of the season That’s pretty standard fare. But it isn’t often that a senior who hasn’t worn a uniform all year pulls on a jersey and steps into the starting lineup.
That’s why when St. Anne’s-Belfield’s Jack Byrne was introduced as part of the lineup in the Saints’ Prep League finale against Trinity Episcopal in late February, it was a little bit of a stunner. Byrnes wasn’t a lightly-used reserve. He was STAB’s point man on statistics, sitting behind the bench each game with a laptop tracking numbers. Lots and lots of numbers.
“He’s done so much for us with the stats and he’s probably done the best stats I’ve ever seen, plus-minus, everything,” said STAB’s senior standout Jayden Nixon. “He’s put in so much work for us.”
And not just in games. In practice, Byrne kept the numbers too, tracking everything from missed lay-ups to bad shots to who’s handing out high-fives.
“He’s marking things we love like deflections, those hustle kind of things,” said STAB head coach Brian Kent. “He has everything lined up. He’s just been tremendous for our program the last two years.”
Two years ago, Nixon and current Duke freshman Javin DeLaurier mentioned to Byrne that the Saints needed a manager and Byrne knew he needed some service hours. It also dovetailed nicely with his desire to one day work in the sports world, either in the front office or as a coach. A contact with the New Jersey Nets suggested he find a team at his school and help them out. So STAB’s boys basketball team, a squad that enjoyed two of its finest years under Brian Kent the last two years with a Prep League title in 2016 and this year’s second place finish, became a regular part of Byrnes’ life.
Assistant coach Geoff Reed suggested that he could take some statistics during practices to give the Saints’ coaching staff some data to back up their own observations. It was just a couple of key columns at first.
“I just took it and ran from there and kept improving it and I said I could do it during games,” Byrne said.
So for two years he ran one of the area’s most extensive statistics operations for a high school team, and when senior night rolled around an appreciative Saints’ program wanted to show how much that service, that contribution meant to them. The coaches also knew how much he loved the game because before and after practices he was often playing other players one-on-one or playing in three-on-three games. So during the team’s usual video session a couple of days before the game against Trinity, the squad that went on to win the VISAA Division I championship, assistant coach Damin Altizer stood in front of the team and talked about how Byrne was always all-in for the program. He then brought Byrne to the front of the film room to sit in one of the five chairs in the front row reserved for the starting five.
“The smile on his face..it’s just hard to explain,” Kent said. “It was just a really cool moment. The kids were really excited. It was a good day.”
Byrne pulled on a jersey with the number 21 on the front and the senior who has played football and baseball for STAB took the floor against one of the state’s top squads.
“I love playing basketball and who wouldn’t be playing if they could?,” Byrne said. “It was great to be a part of it with them. I remember when they were announcing the starting lineups I was so excited.”
The Titans boast one of the state’s most serious lineups, with four Division I players in the starting five including mammoth, 6-foot-9 sophomore Armando Bacot and JMU pledge Zach Jacobs.
“When I play 3-on-3 it’s usually not with guys who are 6-foot-10, 6-foot-11,” Byrne said. “I could tell it was another level I’m not used to. It was different, but it was great.”
Byrne had an assist during his time on the floor, officially entering the statistical record he’s been developing and overseeing over the last two years. It was a fitting finish for a student who’s passionate about the numbers and passionate about the game.
“Even when I’m watching a game on television I always like to see the stats, know who scores and how everybody is playing,” Byrne said. “Like (in the Prep League tournament’s first round) Nic Kent had 13 points, but he had them all at different times of the game. Maybe I wouldn’t notice if I wasn’t keeping the numbers because they were spread out. I’d want to know the stats.”
Because of Byrne the last two seasons, STAB basketball has always known the stats. Which is why that one assist in that one Excel spreadsheet doesn’t begin to tell how much of an impact Byrne has made for the Saints.