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Spartans Enjoying the Present With a Bright Future Ahead

They might be in the Final Four this year, but the future of Michigan State basketball seems even brighter than the spotlight they’ll bask under this weekend in Detroit.


Detroit Pershing’s Keith Appling, fresh off a record-setting state championship victory for the Doughboys, is one of the biggest reasons Spartan fans can be excused for being eternally optimistic under the leadership of coach Tom Izzo.


In the state of Michigan, Izzo has proven there is only one power: MSU. Go no further than Appling’s own comments, after his record-setting finals game, when he threw down 49 points to set a state championship game record. Asked what he thought about the previous record holder — former Michigan star Antoine Joubert — Appling had a revealing answer: “Who?” he asked.


In this state, names like Magic, Mateen, Mo, Charlie and Jason live for years and spread far beyond the cozy confines of East Lansing. Antoine? Glenn? Jawan? Not so much, apparently.


And Keith might be another name that grows in stature when future recruits are quizzed on the annals of basketball lore in the mitten state. It certainly will if Appling, a high school senior next season who committed early to MSU, continues to develop the talent that revealed itself in grand fashion (in case we’d been living under rocks the past few basketball seasons) at the championship game.

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The record-setting specifics: 49 points total, all 13 of the team’s second quarter points (talk about putting the guys on your back); 17 for 24 from the field, five three-pointers on the day; 10-of-12 from the charity stripe; and seven rebounds and two steals. A busy day, to say the least.


Before Appling makes it to MSU, however, he’ll have his friend and Pershing teammate, Derrick Nix, tell him all about campus life. The duo continue MSU’s in-state dominance of basketball recruiting, and along with the program’s continued success on the court (now in their fifth Final Four under Izzo) the Spartans commanded a level of respect few other programs in the country can hope to attain.


But the trick, as it always is in this day and age, is to continue success, not just attain it. That’s why Appling’s budding career and performances like the one he had in the MHSAA finals is so important to the mystique of MSU. In a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately kind of business like big-time college basketball, where fans are fickle and university presidents are seemingly even more difficult to satisfy, half of the game is convincing the world you are not just good right now, but you will be even better in the future. Call it preemptive public relations.


So when a name like Keith begins rattling around in the heads of eighth and ninth graders, when green and white are the favorite colors of a generation of young basketball fans, the future looks very bright. So you’d think another Final Four might cement the status of MSU as an elite program, put some of the doubters in their place, make Digger Phelps think before he belches a half-formed thought. Sadly, it doesn’t, not completely. But at least fans know their Spartans are stocked with talent, and when an opportunity opens, young men all around the state with superstar talent like the amazing Mr. Appling have a select few programs in mind when making the decision of where to spend their future on the court.