A look at Keith Appling's road from basketball stardom to wanted man

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
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From All-American to a wanted man.

That’s the story of Keith Appling, at least it was as of Sunday afternoon.

The former Michigan State guard, who was a high school All-American during his days at Detroit Pershing, is on the run, the focus of a manhunt after allegedly fatally shooting a relative on Saturday night.

Keith Appling drives to the hoop against Ohio State at the Breslin Center, March 4, 2012.

Witnesses, including another relative, have identified Appling, 29, as the shooter, according to a police report obtained by The Detroit News. The Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office late Sunday identified the victim as Clyde Edwards.

It’s the latest, and most disturbing chapter for a man who once stood steps away from a career in the NBA but has since allowed his to life crumble under the weight of multiple legal incidents.

It would have been hard to predict this sort of outcome for Appling when he led Pershing to a state championship as a junior in 2009 by scoring 49 points in the title game, then was named Michigan’s Mr. Basketball as a senior in 2010. From there it was off to Michigan State where Appling was part of a highly rated recruiting class for Tom Izzo that included five-star Adreian Payne as well as Russell Byrd and Alex Gauna.

He started 18 of 34 games as a freshman, and as a sophomore in 2011-12 helped Michigan State win a share of the Big Ten championship, the Big Ten tournament title game and earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Two years later, as a senior, Appling was one of the best players in the nation as Michigan State reached No. 1 in the nation early in the season. But a wrist injury hindered the second half of the year and limited Appling’s effectiveness. Still, the Spartans entered the NCAA Tournament as one of the favorites before a tough loss to Connecticut in the regional finals, one win from the Final Four.

It was a bitter end to Appling’s career, one that saw the former team captain start 124 of 142 games, averaging 10.6 points and 3.3 assists while being named second-team All-Big Ten in 2012-13 while earning honorable mention honors in 2013-14.

“Both guys have come a long ways,” Izzo said at the time of Appling and Payne, the high-profile duo of the senior class. “Very few times do you see guys grow socially, athletically, and academically. Those graduations will be special ones. They weren’t two guys that come with that on the front of their minds. Not only did they do it, but they did it in four years. Off the court, Adriean’s done a heck of a job. Keith has grown, too. He really has. Sometimes we don’t appreciate that some of these kids had it tougher coming up than us. I love those guys.”

Appling was not selected in that summer’s NBA Draft but played two seasons in the G League and played five games with the Orlando Magic in 2016.

Not long after his stint in the NBA, Appling’s legal issues began with two gun charges in 2016, one in Detroit and another in Dearborn. In the Dearborn case, Appling was charged with a felony and two misdemeanors in connection with a May 1, 2016, incident at a Michigan Avenue nightclub after police found two guns in his vehicle.

In 2017, Appling pleaded guilty to carrying a concealed weapon and resisting and obstructing a Detroit police officer during an unrelated traffic stop on Detroit's east side. In that case, he was ordered to serve a year in jail and five years' probation. In December of that year, Izzo visited Appling in prison before Michigan State played a game at Little Caesars Arena.

Appling attempted to resurrect his basketball career from 2018-2019, playing in Mexico, Argentina, Italy and the Dominican Republic. By October of 2020, though, he was back in trouble after police found heroin in his vehicle during a traffic stop in Macomb County. He was sentenced to 18 months probation in November, and a warrant was issued for a probation violation on Feb. 16, Macomb County court records show.

Michigan State declined comment through a spokesman on Sunday.

As news started to circulate on Sunday morning that police were searching for Appling in relation to the shooting in Detroit on Saturday, his former teammates reacted on social media.

“Legit heartbroken & sick right now. … Damn man,” said former Spartan Anthony Ianni, who declined to comment when reached by The News.

“Lost for words. Damn,” said Branden Dawson, who played three seasons with Appling at Michigan State.

mcharboneau@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @mattcharboneau

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