Appling started every game for the Michigan State Spartans last season and seemingly improved across the board between his sophomore and junior seasons. One statistic drew the ire of his head coach, however, as his assists dropped from 3.9 a game to 3.3 a game.
"We told him in the spring you either change or I'm not going to play you at that position," coach Tom Izzo told Sporting News.
It wasn't all Appling's fault, but he'll have to take a lion's share of the blame considering that's the point guard's main focus.
The Spartans struggled mightily with ball control last year, collectively turning it over 489 times -- good for 305th in the nation. Michigan State also ranked 168th in the nation with a 0.97 assist-to-turnover ratio, making them the highest seeded team in the 2013 NCAA Tournament with the lowest ratio.
"That was a ridiculous stat for a top-10 team," Izzo said. "Inexcusable."
Appling's 10.4 field-goal attempts per game led the Spartans. Although Izzo acknowledges his guard has a great ability to get to the lane, he would like to see him make the extra pass a bit more often.
"Keith wasn't as turnover-prone, but he wasn't as assist-prone. He isn't taking a lot of shots, but he wasn't driving thinking about making somebody else better. Because he can get in the lane anytime."
Izzo reportedly likes what he has seen during the Spartan's summer practices, saying that he thinks his threat to Appling earlier in the spring was taken to heart.
Michigan State has some pretty high expectations heading into next year considering Izzo has a deep team that could potentially earn him his third national title. Having a point guard playing like a point guard will make that deep tournament run all the more likely.