EAST LANSING - Michigan State showcased the debuts of two future stars, the improvement of an existing one, and a progress report for a former MVP on the mend during Tuesday's 88-44 exhibition victory over Saginaw Valley State at Breslin Center.A leaner, somewhat quicker version of Derrick Nix scored 9 points, going 3-of-8 from the field and 3-of-5 from the foul line.
Keith Appling was dazzling at times, and classmate Adreian Payne oozed with scary potential as the two incoming freshmen delivered signs of how they can help the Spartans challenge for a third straight Big Ten title and trip to the Final Four.
Meanwhile, a quicker more agile junior version of Draymond Green displayed improvement in his shooting range, going 2-of-3 from 3-point range.
Lucas, recovering from nearly six months off the court after sustaining an Achilles tendon injury last March, provided 13 smooth points, including 2-of-4 shooting from 3-point range, however the 2009 Big Ten Player of the Year admittedly doesn't have all of his horsepower back yet.
Lucas said there were times that the Achilles prevented him from tapping into his extra gear when trying to push the dribble.
"I was really pleased with Kalin Lucas," said Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. "Coming off that injury, he did a lot of good things. He shot it well. He made pretty good decisions. He had a couple of assists that were missed (because teammates missed shots).
"I think he was as fired up as anybody before the game, because it's been so long since he has played."
Lucas was 5-of-8 from the field, and scored all his points in the first half.
"I think his shooting is better," Izzo said. "I think it is because he is concentrating on his shot more. It was fun to watch him."
With Korie Lucious sitting out the first of a two-game suspension due to his drunk driving arrest in September, Lucas played the first 10 minutes without a break.
"We had a first," Izzo said. "He (Lucas) asked to come out of the game. His (conditioning) base isn't there yet. He kind of read it and knew it. We have enough time to keep working on that.
"What he did all summer was rehab, rehab rehab and watch film. In watching film you become more of a student of the game. He is still not able to go by people all the time. Speed is the best part of his game. Now he is starting to think the game more. The injury could be a silver lining and could make him more of a complete player if he can come back and get the conditioning and get that quick first step back.
"He is improving. He has not taken any downward spirals. He has been making improvements in every practice. His mid-range game is (improving); he is pulling up more instead of trying to take everything to the hole like he did last year."
Lucas led the Spartans in scoring with 13 points, followed by Green, Appling and Durrell Summers with 12 apiece.
"We didn't get Rell as many shots," Izzo said. "He hit two, but four or five of his should have been in . I'm still very pleased with him. The way he stunted on the wings (defensively), and did some things. Excellent job by him in that respect."
Payne scored just five points, but led the team in drawing oohs and ahhs. The 6-foot-10, 225-pound freshman had three blocked shots of the picturesque variety. He has six rebounds in 17 minutes.
"Some of those rebounds were outrageous," Green said.
And Payne nailed a 3-pointer, stepping into his shot nicely and looking like a legitimate perimeter threat. Later, Payne missed a 3-pointer.
"Adreian hit one three, so that will probably ruin him for his freshman year," Izzo joked. "He took some pretty good shots, had some good rebounds."
Payne says he has added 20 pounds since arriving at MSU early in the summer. He sustained a shoulder injury midway through his senior season at Dayton (Ohio) Jefferson High School, but still managed to lead his team to a state title. He underwent surgery in the spring, and only last week began a full-fledged weight lifting program.
"He was out of shape when he got here," Green said. "But he is getting into good shape now, and you're seeing some of the things he can do."
One can only imagine. Izzo - for all of Final Fours and National Coach of the Year awards - has never had a freshman big man as athletically talented as Payne. Add the face-up shooting ability, and the possibilities are vast.
"It's exciting to see a young guy come into the program like that and give us some height and athleticism and ability to do a lot of things," Summers said.
Payne didn't get any touches in the post. His back-to-the-basket offense will be revealed at a later date, possibly at next Monday's exhibition against Nebraska-Omaha.
"Adeian can make threes," Izzo said. "It's just that he has to figure out what are good shots and what are bad shots. The one he made was a little quick, but he made it. The one he missed was a (good) ready-shoot shot.
"We still have to get more in the post."
Appling Brings It
Appling was 5-of-9 from the floor, including 1-of-2 from 3-point range. He had two assists and no turnovers.
Appling - last year's Mr. Basketball in Michigan, from Detroit Pershing - scored his first points as a Spartan with a nifty, strong spin-dribble into the lane, giving Michigan State a 23-11 lead.
Later, he collected a loose ball and buried a 3-pointer from the left corner, reminiscent of the day he scored 49 in this building as a high school junior, setting a Class A State Championship record.
"Keith, when he got in there, he took one (a 3-pointer) off the break," Izzo said. "I said, 'Why don't you try to make somebody better.' The next two of the three times down, he had good assists."
In addition to shooting well from range, Green also played a few minutes at small forward.
"You could see how confident he was," Izzo said of Green. "He even hit a long three in there. One thing he did was he got inside-out threes, nothing off the dribble, nothing forced."
As for playing some wing forward, Izzo said, "That is a little difficult for him. One minute he is switching (on defense as a wing), oe minute he is not switching and he is guarding the post. All in all I was pleased with his energy. I was pleased with his leadership."
The Rest Of It
Nix seemed too intent upon scoring in the post when he received entry passes down low, rather than reading the defender and making patient decisions.
Delvon Roe started with Green in the post, and delivered an efficient 8-point, 8-rebound performance. He showed improved explosiveness around the rim and better lateral movement on defense.
"I thought Delvon and Derrick Nix were two guys that didn't play as well early as I've seen them play in practice," Izzo said. "They bounced back and everybody did something. If there is a disappointment, maybe the post play. Derrick looked like he had no lift in the first half, but was much better in the second half.
"I thought Delvon showed that he is going to be much better defensively. His quickness is much better. He rebounded the ball well."
Sophomore post player Garrick Sherman sat out after sustaining a concussion in practice earlier in the week.
"He is going to be okay, but he's not right now," Izzo said. "Last week, I was potentially starting Sherman. He was in the starting group for a week, and Korie could be. Considering we had those two guys out, you can see we do have a lot of depth and quality depth."
What about the opponent?
Saginaw Valley State returns three starters from a team that went 16-12 last year. Guards Chris Webb (6-1, Saginaw Arthur Hill) and Greg Foster (6-2, Indianapolis) were second-team all-conference last year.
"They are probably the best backcourt duo in our league," said SVSU coach Frankie Smith. "Chris was just kind of off tonight."
Webb scored 4 points on 2-of-8 shooting. Foster had 12 points on 12-of-16 shooting. Smith said he liked the open shots his team was able to get in the first half, but the Cardinals shot just 22 percent before halftime.
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