Yes, I know what you’re thinking, it’s way too early too early to be thinking about any Player of the Year candidates.
Well I’m here to tell you that it’s never too early for such a thing. Another person would probably agree with me, and that person is Michigan State‘s Keith Appling.
The junior guard has had a comeback season after a sophomore slump a year ago. The Spartans sit at 11-3 right now after a solid game, resulting in a loss at Minnesota.
The Spartans overcame a huge 12 point deficit in the game, but it just wasn’t enough to outlast the Golden Gophers.
The bright spot in the game other than the never-give-up attitude of the Spartans– point guard Keith Appling. He has been the Spartans’ go-to guy this season after a sub-par 2011-12 season in his eyes.
The junior guard has improved basically every statistical category from last year from shooting percentage all the way down to steals.
Halfway through the season, the Spartan guard has engineered one of the better comeback seasons of any Spartan in program history. He has meant more to his team than possibly anyone in the Big Ten.
Let’s take a look at his numbers this season. He averages 15 points per game to go along with 3.5 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 4.1 assists and a 47 percent field goal percentage. Those number are all improvements from a year ago.
The most noticeable change in his game: his ability to take over games. The Spartans were down by 12 to Minnesota and he helped engineer a comeback with his leadership and sense of urgency. Sure, the Spartans fell apart at the end of the game, but that goes on the shoulders of the team as a whole.
The Spartans need to rely on Appling for leadership and that is what he has provided. He finished the Minnesota game, the Big Ten opener, with 15 points, six steals and five assists. He showed an all-around game and provided the punch the Spartans needed as their big men struggled to get going.
I’m not saying he’s the front-runner for Big Ten Player of the Year, but he should definitely be considered after the start to the season that he’s had.
One thing that will help his case even more– a Big Ten title.