Saturday, May 30, 2020

Izzo addresses Appling's missed chances

April 1, 2014
<p>Senior guard Keith Appling goes up to the basket as Connecticut forward DeAndre Daniels guards March 30, 2014, at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The Spartans lost in the Elite Eight, 60-54. Julia Nagy/The State News</p>

Senior guard Keith Appling goes up to the basket as Connecticut forward DeAndre Daniels guards March 30, 2014, at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The Spartans lost in the Elite Eight, 60-54. Julia Nagy/The State News

Photo by Julia Nagy | The State News

It took four years for Keith Appling to realize he doesn’t get a second chance.

Now that the MSU men’s basketball season — and his career — is over, it’s too late.

Head coach Tom Izzo said Appling sent him a text message after the Spartans’ NCAA Tournament loss to Connecticut that he will never forget.

“He verbalized how much it meant to not get to a Final Four and to be the class to not get there,” Izzo said. “Things that Keith Appling never talked about. It was tear-jerking. I read that, and I will keep that text as long as I coach.”

Izzo compared it to a little kid being curious about touching a hot stovetop without simply trusting what his parents say, but once the child touches the stove many times, it’s too late.

Appling was having a career year before the North Carolina loss in December, having three 20-point outings in the first eight games of the season.

After he fell on his wrist, he was obviously hurting but continued his strong play into the conference schedule, even being named to the Wooden Award midseason Top 25 list.

“When he reinjured it against Indiana, I think the mental part of not practicing (hurt),” Izzo said. “He didn’t shoot at all in January.”

After the Spartans squeaked past the Hoosiers 71-66 on Jan. 21, Appling’s stats took a nosedive.

In the remaining 19 games, including the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments, he had four games in which he scored in double figures, none higher than 16 points, and also missed three games in the heart of the Big Ten season, his first time not in the lineup in his MSU career.

Appling completely disappeared on the offensive end in the postseason, scoring 16 points in seven games between the two tournaments. However, Izzo stuck by him for his defensive abilities.

Now, Appling’s future remains very unclear.

When Jay Bilas and Jalen Rose were in East Lansing for ESPN College GameDay before MSU hosted Michigan in late January, they said he was a fringe NBA point guard, but that was just before his stats skewed down.

Izzo said until he experiences something like the wrist injury, he’ll never know how to help or deal with it, but Appling’s time at MSU will not be forgotten.

“There are two kinds of injuries, there’s the physical injury and ... mental injury,” he said. “Each year, it’s harder to convince people that your time is running out. There are certain things in life that you do not get a second chance at.”

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