Cetshwayo Byrd isn’t afraid to accept a challenge.
Byrd took over a Camden team in 2011 that went 8-18 the previous season and led the Panthers to back-to-back South Group 3 titles and a state finals appearance at Rutgers.
After Byrd left Camden in 2013 -- he was not rehired by Camden officials after a dispute over an independent film about the team -- he took over at Westampton Tech. Now in his fifth season at Westampton, Byrd has guided the Panthers to a 14-7 record, one of the team’s best starts in his tenure.
Of course, Byrd said, the pressure of coaching at hoops-crazy Camden is different than the atmosphere at Westampton Tech in Burlington County.
“Everybody in the community rallies around that [Camden] team,” said Byrd, a 1988 Camden graduate. “That’s like eating a Sunday dinner with your family. Camden High is playing today? Stop. Drop everything, and we’re there. There was definitely some pressure, but I had fun with it."
Despite the more sedate fan base at Westampton, Byrd said he is “in a good spot right now.”
“The administration at West Tech is wonderful,” he said. "They work with me with basically whatever I need, and they’re supportive with everybody. I landed on my feet.”
Byrd brings an old-school, hard-work mantra to a program that hasn’t been accustomed to winning.
That is part of what brought Tyrese Myrick to Westampton Tech. The senior guard spent his freshman year at Doane Academy but needed a change of scenery.
“He just laid down how things were going to be run,” said Myrick. “I’d be able to be ball dominant and get my teammates involved, and from there he had me. I could tell how they were talking that they really cared about me going to the next level.”
Myrick said he has college offers from Division II schools Lincoln and Georgian Court. He also wants to rewrite history this season as Westampton Tech has never won a sectional championship.
“That was one of the reasons I went there, to make a name for myself and the program and the people coming in behind me,” Myrick said.
Myrick, at 6-foot-1 and 236 pounds, is averaging a team-best 20.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game, according to MaxPreps.
Byrd described Myrick as “our guy” and said “we’re going to go as far as he takes us.”
Byrd and Myrick both also credited this season’s success to the players being closer than ever, which began during summer workouts.
“After practice, we’d go hang at a friend’s house, whether it was my house or another teammate’s," Myrick said.
“When you play with people you call family and you’re getting coached by people who genuinely care about you, it brings something else out of you,” Myrick said. “It makes you want to work harder and play for your family and you’ll do whatever for your family."
In addition to Myrick’s scoring, Byrd said the team has benefited from everyone accepting their roles.
Senior guard Avery Anderson, who averages 11.1 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, helps out with the scoring, and senior guard Justin Peeples is Byrd’s defensive stopper.
“You can tell when we’re in close games, we stay together,” Myrick said. "When one teammate has a turnover or isn’t playing well, we lift them up instead of bringing them down.”