Keith Appling made the decision to return to Michigan State for his senior season, rather than become a fringe NBA prospect. Despite the fact that Appling was the leading scorer on a top 10 team in the country and a good perimeter defender, he just wasn’t thought of as a real strong NBA prospect.
As a freshman, Appling was a significant contributor for the Spartans. He averaged 6.4 points, 1.4 assists and 3.8 rebounds, while playing 22.99 minutes per game. Those were very respectable numbers for a true freshman, who came in as a McDonald’s All-American and Mr. Basketball in Michigan.
His sophomore year was when Appling made the major increase in production, along with an increased role on the team. Appling averaged 11.4 points, 2.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists, with the increased minute load, at 30.8 minutes. However, Appling’s shooting efficiency came down, somewhat dramatically, across the board. Appling’s FG% went from 43.6 to 42.7, while his FT% dropped from 89.5 to 78.8 and his three-point FG% dropped from 41.1 percent to 25 percent. Overall, Appling’s true shooting percentage went from 59.3 to 54.2. So, while Appling increased his production, it came along with a large drop-off in offensive efficiency. He went from a very good three-point shooter and a great free throw shooter to a bad three-point shooter and average free throw shooter.
In Appling’s junior year, this past season, his scoring went up just a bit, from 11.4 to 13.4 PPG. But Appling’s shooting continued its downward trend, although not as dramatically as between his freshman and sophomore years.
The fact of the matter is Appling never fulfilled his potential at Michigan State through his first three seasons. Despite raising his scoring averages, Appling has had an alarming decrease in shooting percentage He has become a good player, who led his team in scoring, but most would argue was only the third or fourth best player on Michigan State last season, behind Gary Harris, Adreian Payne and maybe Derrick Nix. Appling hasn’t been able to take that next step offensively, instead improving production at the expense of efficiency.
Now, will this trend continue next season, with Appling being a senior? It is hard to argue against the trend. However, if Appling is to become a legitimate NBA prospect, he will have to dramatically improve offensively.