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.
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
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.
You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank
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