On Tuesday, Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo again clarified a statement he made on Monday that made it seem like he felt longtime star Keith Appling was done playing in his green and white shorts... for good.
The No. 13 Spartans (21-5, 10-3 Big Ten) are coming off a sad 60-51 home loss to Nebraska and are out of the top 10 for the first time this season. They also missed what seemed like an easy opportunity at first to clinch sole possession of the top spot in the Big Ten Conference due to the loss. After the game, of which Izzo was very critical of his team's toughness, the coach spoke to sports reporters and said that it was likely that he would need to "shut Appling down".
Murmurs began buzzing. Was senior Keith Appling being "shut down" for the rest of the season? Would he never again play for the Spartans due to an injury? What of his future prospects and dreams?
All those short-lived questions were answered when Izzo clarified about 20 minutes after his statement that he indeed only meant that he would likely need to sit Appling for the rest of the regular season - not the entire season, including the playoffs, to come.
“I guess I’ve got to be careful — I’ll restate it, I guess I appreciate it if everybody took it the same way, that’s my stupidity,” Izzo said as he clarified his initial news conference statement. “But if it isn’t better today, tomorrow, I can’t worry about (him playing against) Purdue and Michigan. … You just have to worry about getting him healthy for the Big Ten tournament and the NCAA tournament.”
Appling played for 19 minutes against the surprisingly ferocious Nebraska team after he'd already missed three games to a hand injury and the result was less than spectacular. Izzo commented that the only reason he allowed Appling to play for the time that he did was because the young player basically begged and insisted that he was in better physical shape than he had seemed.
Now, after the loss to the Cornhuskers, Izzo has to re-evaluate how he would like to utilize one of his best players for the future. Right now, it seems like he might rather wait and have a fully-healthy Appling back in the post season, instead of risking further injury to him now during the battle of the regular season.
“We’ve got to get him back, but we’ve got to keep him healthy,” Izzo said. “So I don’t know what to tell you on it. … (It’s a) sprained wrist and it’s been going on since (Dec.4), chances are it ain’t gonna be 100% and one fall on it, if I keep him out a month and he falls on it in the first game of the NCAA tournament, it could be right back to square one.”
You can follow MSU writer, Michael Ferro, at twitter.com/MichaelFerro.