Michigan State Basketball Midnight Madness
Keith Appling, left, tries to dribble past Travis Trice during the Michigan State Midnight Madness event at the Breslin Center in East Lansing on Friday, Oct. 18, 2013. The event introduced both the mens and womens teams to a mostly full house at the arena.
(J. Scott Park | MLive.com)
EAST LANSING -- Michigan State point guard Keith Appling didn't have to be told his assist numbers needed improvement after his 3.3 per game ranked 10th in the Big Ten.
"That's one of the things I already knew," Appling said.
So Michigan State's top scorer got in the gym and got better at decision-making. It was enough for coach Tom Izzo to notice a striking difference with Appling, who in his senior season is seeking a place on the Michigan State national championship point guard mantle alongside Magic Johnson and Mateen Cleaves.
"I think he went from just trying to be a scoring point guard or maybe looking for a shot first, and now sometimes he's almost looking for it second," Izzo said.
The latest offseason transformation for Appling took place after a season in which Izzo conceded that there were times he considered a change at point guard. Those moments appeared to have been fleeting given an injury-plagued year out of backup Travis Trice.
"I think this year you'll see them playing together some, which will give Keith a little ability to get off the ball once in a while," said Izzo, who has noted Appling and Trice have the ability to play either guard position in smaller lineups.
Appling, a former McDonald's All-American shooting guard out of Detroit Pershing, said he worked "religiously" on his shot while also watching film to refine his point guard skills.
"He's throwing better passes," Izzo said of Appling. "He's involving his teammates more at the right time.
"Keith was not selfish. He wasn't out there taking 25 shots a game. But I think when he did pass sometimes, it wasn't where a guy could do something with it."
Appling knew that with offensive weapons all around him in Gary Harris, Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne, he needed to rededicate himself to making those around him better.
"It's so plain to see that we have so many different players that are capable of doing many different things, so I just want to put myself in the position to be able to make our offense flow as smoothly as it possibly can so that we can be a much successful team," Appling said.
"I just knew I just had to make better decisions and be able to get my teammates involved a lot more and just run my team."
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