Tom Izzo: Former Michigan State basketball star Keith Appling murder charges 'sad'

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

EAST LANSING — Tom Izzo tried four years ago to help Keith Appling get his life back on track after a series of gun charges derailed his potential NBA future.

Over the past few months, the Michigan State basketball coach again attempted to aid his former player as legal problems grew. But Izzo said he never anticipated Appling would be accused of murder.

“I'm trying to reserve, trying not to do with the world does and make him guilty until he's proven it,” Izzo said Wednesday, a day before Appling’s scheduled arraignment. “And yet, everything I hear, it's not great.”

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo talks with guard Keith Appling during a game against Michigan, Feb.12, 2013 at the Breslin Center in East Lansing .
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo talks with guard Keith Appling during a game against Michigan, Feb.12, 2013 at the Breslin Center in East Lansing .

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced Monday the 29-year-old Appling will face a murder charge in connection with the May 22 fatal shooting of his relative last month in the 13240 block of Whitcomb Street in Detroit. The former McDonald’s All-American, who played at MSU from 2010-14 and was a star at Pershing High, also faces one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm, and two counts of felony firearm. Appling will be arraigned at 11 a.m. Thursday in 36th District Court.

Appling also is accused of a second, separate shooting in Jackson County’s 12th District Court for a May 2 incident. He is awaiting a preliminary examination for charges of assault with intent to do bodily harm less than murder and felony firearm. And last December, Appling was sentenced to 18 months of probation after being pulled over in Warren with 19 grams of heroin.

Former MSU teammate Russell Byrd, who also has tried to help Appling, arranged a meeting earlier this spring between the coach and his former point guard, Izzo said. Though their efforts appeared to be helping, the two shooting allegations came shortly after their contact.

Keith Appling.
Keith Appling.

Izzo said he has not spoken with Appling since he was arrested May 24 in Chelsea. He called the situation “sad.”

“I hope and pray to God that it's not true,” Izzo said. “But I have no knowledge of anything, except that I was trying to help him get back on track, as were more than a few other people.”

In December 2017, Izzo and assistant coach Dwayne Stephens visited Appling in Wayne County Jail while he was serving a year sentence for carrying a concealed weapon and attempted resisting and obstructing a police officer. Appling had been arrested three times on gun charges in a four-month period in 2016, though two of them were dismissed as part of his plea agreement.

All of those incidents came after Appling made his NBA debut on two 10-day contracts and played five games with the Orlando Magic in January 2016. The 6-foot-1 guard was a D-League (now G League) All-Star that year as well.

Appling did not return to the G League after his NBA stint and first arrest. After his release from jail, he played pro basketball in 2018-19, with stops in Mexico, Italy and the Dominican Republic.

Contact Chris Solari: csolari@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari. Read more on the Michigan State Spartans and sign up for our Spartans newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan State basketball's Tom Izzo: Keith Appling murder count 'sad'