When the Big Ten Network produced a program highlighting the most storied position traditions of excellence in the conference, Michigan State point guards took home the overall slot. All those decades of college basketball and college football and the number one is the men who have manned “the one” in East Lansing. NBA superstars, Team USA and college legends, guys like Scott Skiles, Magic Johnson, Mateen Cleaves, Drew Neitzel, Steve Smith and Eric Snow.
Playing point guard at Michigan State is a position of great power that comes with great responsibility and great scrutiny. Kalin Lucas holds the position now, with top ten freshman recruit and former Michigan Mr. Basketball Keith Appling waiting in the wings.
Appling is now starting and, along with Lucas, bringing the ball up and setting the offense. His move to the starting five gives State two point guards in the lineup; and an upgrade in ball-handling skills.
It’s mandatory because their biggest issue is turnovers.
By Paul M. Banks
It’s getting better, but there are still issues. Assist to turnover ratio numbers in the Breslin Center are not what they should be.
“One thing that coach looks for is toughness, he was happy when he found out I played some football in high school, he wants his point guards to be tough and be leaders and get on guys,” Lucas said.
“And that’s something Mateen brought, I’m bringing and when I leave, you got Keith Appling, he’s very tough as well.”
“He’s got a big heart and he’s not afraid of anything and like a lot of guys from (Detroit) Pershing High School he’s got some toughness to him,” Coach Tom Izzo said of Appling.
Indeed the position will be all Appling’s next year when Lucas graduates.
“He knows how to score the ball in all sorts of ways, he doesn’t do just one thing,” Lucas said of Appling.
“I think that’s how I am, I’m not one player who just shoots threes, or goes to the basket. I think I’m the type who can go to the rack if I need to, they back off me- I can hit the mid-range jumpshot or shoot the three. I think Keith brings the same thing. Plus he’s a little bit taller and longer than I am”
Lucas is clearly not himself after the Achilles, this much must be true. Although only a few people are saying it, there’s no other explanation for what’s happened with his decline in production this year.
Lucas had a chance to go pro last season, but the Achilles injury hurt his draft stock and he made the logical decision to return for this senior season.
“I think the main factor was that I did get hurt,” Lucas said.
“I think if I wouldn’t have gotten hurt, we still would have made it to the Final Four, and I would have been playing good basketball, I think my stock probably would have gone up where I went to the NBA Draft.”
So what did the scouts tell Lucas he needs to do to get his draft stock up?
“Getting my guys the ball and playing a littler more defense and just trying to be great at one thing, instead of being only good at a bunch of things,” Lucas said.
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest webzine. He’s also a regular contributor to the Tribune’s Chicago Now network, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com
You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank
He also does a regular guest spot each week for Chicagoland Sports Radio.com
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