Michigan State Basketball: Ranking Tom Izzo’s top 10 recruiting classes

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Dec 4, 2013; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans center Adreian Payne (5) and Michigan State Spartans guard Keith Appling (11) talk between plays against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the 2nd half a game at Jack Breslin Student Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

5. Class of 2010

Tom Izzo had to be pleased with this class as he lured in Michigan’s Mr. Basketball once again as four-star guard Keith Appling picked MSU. Joining him was five-star center and athletic specimen Adreian Payne from Dayton, Ohio. Rounding out the class were two three-stars, Alex Gauna and Russell Byrd.

Gauna was a prospect from Michigan who wasn’t too highly regarded as he was the fourth-best in Izzo’s 2010 grouping. He was one of Izzo’s projects who he claimed didn’t love basketball enough and that may have ultimately led to an early end to his career after he stopped playing after his redshirt junior year, finishing his career with a 1.5-point, 1.0-rebound per game average.

Byrd came in as a shooting superstar, looking to be the best three-point threat since Chris Hill and maybe the best in school history. However, that was not the case as he constantly battled injuries and confidence issues, but was named team captain at one time. Byrd left the program after his redshirt junior year as well, averaging 1.4 points and 0.8 rebounds per game during his three-year career. He was a fan favorite despite shooting just 23 percent from three-point range.

Appling, as I said earlier, won Michigan’s Mr. Basketball in 2010 and joined the class as a point guard although many questioned his ability to run point. It took him a couple years to warm up to the idea of running the offense and he succeeded, leading the Spartans to two Sweet Sixteens and an Elite Eight. After a stellar freshman year in which he shot over 40 percent from downtown, he saw his sophomore shooting numbers decline drastically, before improving in his junior and seniors years. Appling averaged 10.6 points, 3.3 assists and 3.0 rebounds in four years.

Payne was easily the favorite Spartan of the class and fans loved his ability to throw down a monstrous dunk and befriend a young cancer patient, Lacey Holsworth. He stole the heart of America when the story broke of his friendship with her and everyone then became a fan of Payne. He started his career off with people murmuring the word “bust” as he had trouble grasping the plays and looked lost at times out on the court. Then, he blossomed into the player he is today, averaging 16.4 points and 7.3 rebounds his senior year after averaging just 2.5 points and 2.4 rebounds his freshman year.

Pretty solid class with Payne and Appling leading the way.

Next: 4. Class of 2002

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