The road might not have been easy for Keith Appling to become a solid point guard, but it has paid off lately.
The senior has started out his final collegiate year in style, with a big game in front of NBA scouts against then top-ranked Kentucky and continued Monday night with 25 points in Michigan State's 82-67 win against Portland.
"I'm just a lot more comfortable," Appling said. "Comfortable with demanding things out of my teammates and just running the team. I feel like that's starting to carry over and show with my play."
Appling has gotten out to a quick start with 25 assists through four games, with seven coming Monday to just one turnover.
"I thought he was phenomenal, and I do not use that word for many players," coach Tom Izzo said. "I am happy for him, because I think if you watch his progression it really is impressive. … If you look at a guy that has been doing it on both ends of the court, it's him. Like I said, I do not remember a point guard that has been playing this well in a long time."
Izzo, who described Appling's performance as one of the best point guard performances in many years, also said Appling is growing into leadership this season.
"He is starting to control this team," Izzo said. "He is still not the greatest of communicators, but he has got the coolest, calmest head out there. He is competitive, but has learned to channel that."
Appling said leadership is another thing he is comfortable with now.
"I'm a lot more comfortable demanding certain things out of the rest of my teammates and they do a great job of responding," he said. "I feel like that's one of the things that's kind of helping us as we continue to get better."
And as he gets more comfortable, the impact on the Spartans is clear.
"His performance was good," fellow senior Adreian Payne said. "It was actually great. That's what we need from our seniors and from him.
"He scored the ball and he got people easy shots and baskets and he played great defense."