Pershing’s Appling adds to Doughboys’ rich legacy with Mr. Basketball award

Keith Appling

Keith Appling

In the 30 years that a Mr. Basketball award has been presented in Michigan, no team has laid claim to the title more than Pershing High School and no league has had more representation than the Detroit Public School League.

Keith Appling, who helped lead Pershing to consecutive PSL, City and Class A district boys’ basketball championships, added to that rich legacy Monday when he was named 2010 Mr. Basketball by the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan.

Appling, a 6-2 senior guard, was presented with the prestigious Hal Schram Mr. Basketball trophy at a press conference hosted by the Detroit Free Press. The award is named for the late, long-time Free Press prep sports writer and has been presented annually to the top senior boys’ basketball player in the state since 1981.

Appling is the second consecutive honoree from Pershing High. The Doughboys’ Derrick Nix was the 2009 Mr. Basketball recipient and is now a freshman center playing in the NCAA tournament “Sweet 16” for Michigan State University.

“The talent just keeps getting better year after year,” Appling said. “We just want to keep it going.”

With online voting used for the first time and points awarded on a 5-3-1 basis for first-, second- and third-place, BCAM members overwhelmingly chose Appling. His 2,037 points easily outdistanced Mt. Pleasant’s Trey Zeigler (1,145).

As the top returnee from last year’s Class A state championship team, Appling led the Doughboys to a 22-3 record this season, averaging 28 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals a game. He will join Nix this fall at Michigan State.

“It just shows that the PSL is still one of the most influential leagues in the Michigan High School Athletic Association,” said A.W. Canada, Pershing High’s head coach. “As far as what it says about our program, having Mr. Basketball two years in a row shows what hard work and dedication can lead to in the end result.”

Appling, a three-year starter, elevated his stature to legendary heights last season when he scored 49 points in Pershing’s state championship victory. He said he never thought about winning the Mr. Basketball award.

“I never think about individual awards,” he said. “I just wanted to get back and win the state championship again.”

The Doughboys’ bid for a repeat state Class A title ended with a loss to Detroit Denby in the regional finals. Asked if winning Mr. Basketball gave him some consolation, Appling conceded “Yes somewhat.”

Pershing High has now produced four Mr. Basketball winners, including Winfred Walton in 1996 and Willie Mitchell in 1994. Ten, or one-third of the 30 recipients of the award, have hailed from Detroit PSL teams: They include Southwestern’s Antoine Joubert (1983), Chadsey’s Demetreus Gore (1984), Cooley’s Michael Talley (1989), Murray-Wright’s Robert Traylor (1995), Redford’s Dion Harris (2003) and Redford’s Corperryale Harris (2007).

“There’s a lot of talent that comes out of this city,” Appling said. “That shows by how many of us have won this award.”

Accompanied by his mom, Tottie Collins, Appling fielded media questions and posed for pictures before he was whisked away for an exclusive Free Press photo shoot. His coach marveled about the player he’s seen grow up.

“He’s just a fierce competitor who does anything it takes to help his team win,” Canada said. “And he’s a humble kid, too. There’s no one who deserves this honor more than he does. He not only excels on the court but also in the classroom.

He stays on the honor roll, and his ACT, SAT and all his academic requirements for college are completed. I expect him to succeed at the next level and beyond.”

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