School: Michigan State
Hometown: Detroit, Mich.
2011-12 Averages: 11.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 3.8 apg, 1.2 spg
Career Averages: 9.0 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.7 apg, .9 spg
The Backstory: There has never been any doubt that Keith Appling could play. This season the junior point guard plans to answer any doubters about his ability to lead. No. 14 Michigan State, last year's Big Ten tri-champions (Michigan State, Ohio State and Michigan all finished at 13-5), will be depending on him to do so. The dynamic guard emerges from the shadow of all-everything forward Draymond Green, the 2012 NABC National Player of the Year and Consensus First-Team All-American, and now must emerge as the leader of a Spartans team that lost two of its top three scorers from last season (Green, the school's all-time leading rebounder, and last year's second-best assister, and guard Brandon Wood). Appling, a junior from Detroit, has credentials. He finished second to Green in scoring (with 11.4 ppg) and led the team in assists with 3.9 helpers per game, seventh in the conference and fourth among all returning Big Ten guards in 2012-’13. Appling also ranked among the conference's best in assist-to-turnover ratio, as his plus-1.7 last season tied for eighth and is fourth among this year's returning guards. While he isn't the biggest guy on the court, he is tough—and tough to get off the court. He was the only MSU player to start all 37 games last year and was one of only two Spartans (Green was the other) to play at least 30 minutes a game.
Key Stat: 12-for-12: Appling had the Big Ten single-game high for most consecutive free throws made going 12-for-12 1n the Feb. 22 game against Lehigh. The performance was typical of Green, who converted at a .788 clip from the free throw line, although not so much for MSU, which ranked eighth in the Big Ten in free-throw percentage.
Did You Know: Keith starred at Pershing High School, the same school as 2000 Gold Medalist and longtime NBA star and fellow MSU alum Steve Smith. As a senior, Appling averaged 28.1 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals, leading Pershing High School to the Detroit Public School league title. As a junior he led Pershing to the Class A state championship and in the championship game, scored a state title game-record 49 points.