Niang Stayed Loyal To Iowa State
AMES, Iowa- Georges Niang hasn't played a game in a Cyclone uniform, but you can sense from the rabid Iowa State fanbase he's already a fan favorite.
Niang arrived in Ames for his freshman season in June after a remarkable prep career at The Tilton School in New Hampshire. A native of Methuen, Mass., Niang was the 2012 NEPSAC Class AA Player of the Year, averaging 25.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists as a senior. He ended his brilliant high school career as Tilton's all-time leading scorer with 2,372 points.
Niang was a consensus national top-100 recruit, chiming in at No. 56 in ESPNU's final class of 2012 overall rankings.
With all of the honors and hype surrounding Niang, one would think the 6-7 power forward was a national commodity from the onset. It wasn't the case, however.
Up until last summer's AAU circuit, Niang was lightly recruited. Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg saw incredible talent in Niang and made a big push to land the skilled post. His early reconnaissance work was beneficial.
"He (Hoiberg) was the first major head coach to say that he really believed in me, and at that point, coaches really questioned whether I was athletic enough," Niang said. "Coach Hoiberg saw me one time, had me in for a visit and made me an offer. I picked him because he believed in me. That's why I am here at Iowa State."
With a commitment to Iowa State out of the way, Niang and his Boston-based BABC AAU team was revving up for a busy summer AAU schedule. One of the stops was the prestigious Nike Peach Jam, the nation's best AAU tournament.
The BABC squad featured many top high school players, including Kentucky's Nerlens Noel, who was the second-best player in the class of 2012. Coaches from the country's best teams and the nation's top recruiting experts were in attendance to watch Noel and the other highly-coveted recruits. What happened next was unexpected. The onlookers unanimously came away impressed with the lesser-known forward who innately had the knack to be in the right place at the right time.
"After the Peach Jam, it was an eye-opener," Niang said. "This game is about confidence. If you believe that you can play against the best, then you can do it. At this level, everyone has pretty much the same amount of talent. Confidence is the key."
The world got a whole lot bigger for Niang after the Peach Jam. Suddenly, his phone was ringing off the hook from coaches around the country. The conversations didn't last long. He was a loyal Cyclone.
"Coaches really tried to come after me then and I told them that I was already sold on Iowa State," Niang said. "I'm a loyal person. I knew I wasn't going to change my mind, but telling them I wasn't going to change my mind was hard because coaches don't see anything besides their opinions. So that was a little hard, but I made it through and I made it here."
Ask anyone who's seen Niang compete and they immediately marvel at his uncanny post moves and positioning on the low block. He honed his skills by mimicking NBA legend Hakeem Olajuwon and current NBA All-Star Kevin Love. It also didn't hurt playing against Noel every day in practice.
Noel, who was arguably the best shot-blocker in prep hoops last year, was also Niang's teammate at The Tilton School. Daily head-to-head matchups vs. Noel will definitely force a player to find creative ways to score.
"You won't find a better shot blocker than (Noel)," said Niang. "Finding out, as an offensive player, how to throw off his timing was key when you faced him every day in practice. I definitely had my struggles against him, but having played against a guy who can block your shot anytime he wants is helpful."
Niang has enjoyed his brief time in Ames. He showcased his abilities at the YMCA Capital City League this summer, averaging 29.4 points and 10.1 rebounds.
He saw the advantages of playing in the summer league.
"The league helped me out a lot because I was going against grown men," Niang said. "The physicality is a lot different than high school. What was a foul in high school is not a foul here. That definitely helped me coming back here and working out, learning that you need to hit someone before you get hit, whether that's on the offensive end or on the defensive end."
Summer classes officially end on Friday and Niang will head home for a couple of weeks before the fall semester begins on Aug. 20. He's looking forward to seeing his family before the end of summer, but he's also excited about beginning his freshman season at Iowa State.
"It's been great so far and the guys have helped me out a ton," Niang said. "I love our freshman class. I really think that we're ready and everyone needs to watch out for us. We're always in the gym working out together. I have had a great time in Ames so far. It has been a warm welcome for me."