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March 12, 2011

Walk-On This Way

"I took a little extra time to hang on the rim, take it in, felt good." - Mike Kebler on the best MSU postseason dunk since Durrell Summers made Stanley Robinson famous.

INDIANAPOLIS - Midway through the first half against Iowa, Tom Izzo stomped his foot in classic fashion. Everyone at Conseco Fieldhouse - quieted by MSU's fading lead and increasing turnovers - could hear him clearly.

"Keebs! Shoot the ball!"

For impartial observers at The Big Ten Tournament, it may have sounded like standard coach-speak. But for Michigan State fans, it was indicative of what the 2011 season had become - a season where Izzo has had so few scoring options, he simply couldn't afford to let walk-on Mike Kebler pass up an open jumper.

So Izzo stomped and Izzo yelled. And Kebler took a seat on the bench with 8:30 left in the half.

He'd gone 0-0 many times before, but this was March, 2011, and Izzo had decided weeks earlier that Kebler needed to be something more than he was. Twenty-four hours later, Mike Kebler was so something more, he was virtually unrecognizable to the college basketball world.

Midway through the first half against Purdue Friday night in the quarter finals of The Big Ten Tournament, Kebler caught a pass from Delvon Roe in front of the Purdue bench. He didn't pass up the shot the jumper this time, the basket was good and Michigan State pushed their lead over the No.9 Boilermakers to 14 - the largest it had been all night.

But it was with a 1:30 left that Kebler wrote his Spartan saga. Shortly after rousing the crowd with a steal and a coast-to-coast flying layup, Mike Kebler flew down his lane, caught a pass from Draymond Green, and gave Spartan their biggest postseason dunk since Durrell Summers made Stanley Robinson famous.

Izzo didn't stomp this time. But you wouldn't have heard it if he had.

"I've been waiting a long time to do that. That was my first dunk...in a game," Kebler said. "I took a little extra time to hang on the rim, take it in, felt good."



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