Michigan State class was ranked #8 overall by Scout.com, good for third overall in the Big Ten behind #1 ranked class Ohio State and #6 Illinois. While GSN is willing to concede the top ranking to Ohio State, we believe that Appling and Byrd give the Spartans a 1-2 backcourt punch that will prove to be better than the class of Illinois.
"I'm proud and excited to say we have four very good recruits and four guys who fit what we need extremely well, led by Keith Appling another Pershing high school player that I think was very well coached," said MSU head coach Tom Izzo.
"The interesting part of this class is that I think we have guys who had very good coaches, A.W. Canada did an incredible job with (Derrick) Nix in losing the weight and with (incoming freshman Keith) Appling.
Appling was named by Scout.com as the top incoming freshman guard in the conference and rightly so. GoSpartans.net watched Appling burn every opponent who stepped to him on a nightly basis and believe he has NBA potential. He is the heir-apparent to Kalin Lucas who could leave for the NBA after this season.
"Everybody knows about his 49 points here when he played in the State title game, but he averaged almost 23 points per game," noted Izzo.
Joining Appling is Adriean Payne, the five-star center from Dayton Jefferson who many thought MSU had no shot at grabbing. Early on, as GSN followed the recruitment of Payne, we were scoffed at by those who said MSU had no chance, but GoSpartans.net saw the building relationship between the Jefferson star and the MSU coaching staff.
Eventually, that relationship bloomed into a commitment that was given at the staff during Iowa weekend but was not announced a week later.
"He brings something that we haven't had in a while," said Izzo. "Length, athleticism and he can shoot the ball up to three point range."
Giving MSU the potential of a long-range shooting threat that it has not seen since the departure of Scott Skiles is swingman Russell Byrd of Ft. Wayne Blackhawk Christian. Byrd committed to MSU back in October and used the time since then to work at improving his game. Particularly he has improved as a rebounder and a defender. Look for him to get into the playing group early with the loss of Raymar Morgan to graduation. "I think he's going to be a player who gives us incredible shooting ability with size. He's a true guard who can shoot the ball, (he) had a little bit of an erratic summer so is ranked anywhere from in the 50s to 100. I think he's going to give us some size that can stroke the ball, he's a very good shooter." Finally, Izzo talked about a player he believes has the most upside of the group, Eaton Rapids forward Alex Gauna.
"[He] is probably the most underrated of the bunch as far as a kid we felt really has a chance to do some things. I think his best basketball is ahead of him. I was really impressed from his junior year Adam Crumpert did a great job with him. I look at the progress he made this year with his body and I think his best basketball will be his senior season and then on up.