During the off-season, I was asked multiple times by basketball fans, can Michigan State point guard Keith Appling make it to the NBA?
Every time, I simply answered, “Yes, there is no doubt in my mind that Appling can make it to the NBA but at this point, Appling’s NBA future is up to him.”
So far this season he is proving me right. Just last week, Appling led the Spartans to an overtime victory against the Ohio State Buckeyes when took he on one of the top defenders in college basketball, Shannon Scott, and knocked down a clutch three-point shot winning the game for the Spartans.
If that’s not good enough, Appling has improved every aspect of his game this season. He is averaging 15 points per game while shooting 50 percent from the field and 48 percent from three. Considering he shot 42 percent from the field and 32 percent from three last year, that’s a major improvement. That improvement mainly comes from two things. The first being his shot selection, he is taking more high percentage shots and making a point to not force anything and take what the defense gives him. The second thing he is doing better is shooting, last season he was criticized for not having a consistent jump shot but so far this season, he has shown he can make shots from three and mid-range whether it be off of the dribble while guarded or in catch and shoot situations.
He is also averaging five assists, three rebounds and a steal per game so far this season. While those stats may not be the most glamorous to the average basketball fan, it doesn’t change the fact that Appling is coming into his own. He has cut down on his turnovers, only averaging between 1-2 turnovers a game and he continues to be a solid defender on the perimeter.
He has slowly but surely become a better creator and overall a better point guard, learning how to get everyone involved and make everyone better. He also seems to be figuring out the “fine line” between being a creator and scorer. Basically meaning he is starting to understand, when it’s time to be a facilitator and get others involved and when it’s time to take over games and score.
That’s one of the biggest things I feel he doesn’t get credit for in my opinion. In Michigan State’s biggest wins (Kentucky and Ohio State) so far this season, Appling has been most valuable player on the court. Against Kentucky, he scored 20 points, grabbed eight rebounds and dished eight assists. Then against Ohio State, he scored 20 points, dished seven assists and grabbed six rebounds, all while sealing the victory with a clutch three-point shot. Now he obviously didn’t win those games by himself, Adreian Payne and the rest of the Spartans contributed as well but that doesn’t change the fact that Appling took over in both those game and led his team to victory.
Now don’t get it twisted, I’m not saying Appling is a Top 5 pick or even Top 10 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. I’m simply saying he is playing good consistent basketball and it’s because of that fact that his NBA stock is rising.
At 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, he is considered to be average height for a point guard in the NBA. If he continues to show he can score from the perimeter, create for others and take over games in the clutch, there is nothing stopping the former Detroit Pershing Doughboy from being selected in the 2014 NBA Draft.
Written by LBeasley, Sports Contributor for Radio One Detroit
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