Seniors hoping to fill "not complete" legacy

Appling, Payne enter final home game at Breslin Center with goals still on table before their career's end at Michigan State.

Another senior day has come for Michigan State basketball, but for Keith Appling and Adreian Payne, it doesn't feel much like the end of the road.

"It really doesn't even feel like the end of the season because we are just now getting everybody back," Appling said. "I guess that's a good thing, especially heading into March."

March is where the legacy of the graduating seniors will be made – as it generally is. On their resume already are two Sweet 16 appearances, a Big Ten title and a Big Ten Tournament title. Still, Appling said he feels like nothing has been accomplished.

The ever-so-important Final Four remains absent, especially with the streak of every player staying for four years under Tom Izzo reaching the pinnacle of college basketball in jeopardy again.

"I really want to leave my legacy as being known for a champion, we just have to wait and see how the rest of the season plays out," he said.

"It's definitely not complete."

Completing the legacy – and the coming tournament weeks – played a big part in Payne's return after a junior campaign that opened big doors at the NBA level.

"It was to make a huge impact on this program and on the team to make it to a Final Four and win the championship," he said. "It's just a reality check knowing you could have been gone but this is why you came back.

"Now it's time to step up and lead the team to where we need to be."

Getting where they need to be has been anything but a smooth path. Both seniors have missed time in their final season and final run through the Big Ten.

Payne, who was suffering from plantar fasciitis early in the year, missed seven games spanning January into February with a right foot injury.

As soon as Payne returned, Appling took his spot on the bench with a right wrist injury that kept him out of the lineup for three games and continues to hinder his play.

"The injuries really threw me off, especially the ones I had," Payne said. "I didn't expect that and I just had to find a way to deal with it and overcome and find ways through it."

Both say they will miss the moments in the locker room and the camaraderie with their teammates. Likewise, both have seen the growth that comes with four years on a college campus – with the focus being on the investment of the coaching staff in each of them.

"I was really quiet, it just took me some time to adjust," Payne said. "I've grown as a person and as a player here. A lot of credit goes to the coaching staff here for helping me out."

"I feel like I've grown a lot, both as a player and as a person," Appling said. "With the help of all of my coaches and I feel like it has helped me both on the floor and on the floor."

But as Appling said, "time waits for no man" and his final home game is upon him as he, Payne and Dan Chapman will be honored before Thursday night's game.

"There is no other place I've loved to play other than here, but like they say, all good things come to an end sooner or later," he said. "It's kind of bittersweet and I'm going to miss playing on the floor and playing for Coach Izzo and wearing that Michigan State jersey."

But while it is the final game at home at Breslin Center in the Michigan State jersey, the season will not be complete yet – just like their legacy.

Payne made no qualms about what he wants his legacy to be.

"How I want to be remembered is making it to a Final Four," he said.

Whether that is the case will be seen in the coming weeks.


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