On November 12, 2010 Keith Appling made his very first appearance at the Breslin Center as a member of the Michigan State Spartans. Against the Eastern Michigan Eagles, Appling sliced and diced his way to a 14-point performance where the young point guard missed just one shot all evening. This was the beginning of what would be a spectacular career in green and white for this 6-foot-1 playmaker.
Appling knows the state of Michigan far too well. Not only did he play his college basketball in The Mitten State, he grew up there as well. Keith was born in "The Motor City," living his life in Detroit before venturing over to the capital of the state. There, he played at Pershing High, the same school that former Michigan State Spartan-turned-NBA analyst Steve Smith played in his young career. Appling's career was so stellar at Pershing that he was named Mr. Basketball in the year 2010, along with being anointed as a McDonald's All-American.
Appling arrived in East Lansing and took part in 34 games while starting 18 of them. He turned in a team-high 41.1 percent mark from the 3-point line on 95 attempts, and in his freshman year he nearly set a record for most made 3-pointers as a freshman with 39, netting him third place in the history of Spartan freshman basketball. His best performance of the season was against the Northwestern Wildcats, where he scored 19 points in an overtime victory, including a dagger 3-pointer in the overtime frame.
Appling certainly improved in his sophomore season, as he was the one and only player on the team to start in every game the Spartans played that year. His averages exceeded those that he had a year prior, grabbing 11.4 points and 3.9 assists, up from his 6.4 points the year prior. He had a terrific showing in their early season matchup with the Duke Blue Devils, scoring 22 points in a loss at Madison Square Garden. Appling was a significant contributor that year for Michigan State, accounting for 22.2 percent of their possessions. That number only trailed Derrick Nix and Draymond Green, who led the team with 28.5 percent of possessions accounted for.
In his junior year, Keith Appling had a terrific run in the first month of the season. How awe inspiring? Consider this: in seven games, the Detroit, Michigan native averaged 16.6 points, 4.1 assists and a field goal percentage of 46.9 percent. This was one of the best stretches of performances that he had in his entire career in East Lansing, and his poise and presence helped the Spartans reach the Sweet 16 that season, before being swatted away by the Duke Blue Devils.
If Appling's month of November in his junior season was a great stretch, his run in November a season ago the best. He averaged almost 16.9 points per game and 5.6 assists per game too, up from his numbers the year before. But unfortunately for Appling and the Spartans, he never quite reached that level of play the rest of the way. After an injury sidelined him in the middle of Big Ten play, Appling never got back to the type of performances Spartan fans got used to while he was donning green and white. A miserable run through the NCAA Tournament while averaging 3.4 points game put a huge blemish on an otherwise remarkable career, as he became part of the only group of seniors to not reach a Final Four with head coach Tom Izzo.
With that said, you will be getting a very tough player in Keith Appling who has shown tremendous ability to help lead a team throughout his years in East Lansing. His nagging injuries in his senior season seem to have dampened any hope that he will be chosen in Thursday night's NBA Draft, but if given a chance I don't think succeeding is out of the question. Though physically limited, at just 6-feet tall, last listed at the Los Angeles Clippers workout he took part in this summer, Appling still showed that he was a very talented player during his run as a Spartan.
So should your team take a chance on Keith Appling, let it be known you are getting a player with experience in big games, leadership qualities and playmaking abilities. He might not start for your team from the get go, or even be a backup. But if your team gives him a shot, there's almost little doubt that he's not going to do something with it.