AMES, Iowa – Iowa State forward Georges Niang isn’t very athletic.
He just isn’t.
Yet the 6-foot-7 Niang has blossomed into one of the Big 12’s better freshmen, helping the Cyclones get off to a good start this season. Niang is third on Iowa State in scoring at 11.5 points per game while hitting 52.5 percent of his shots. He was named the Big 12’s Rookie of the Week on Monday after averaging 15.5 points per game in a loss to Kansas and a win over Texas last week.
Niang and the Cyclones (11-4, 1-1 Big 12) host West Virginia (8-7, 1-2) tonight in search of their second straight Big 12 victory.
“It’s going to be difficult for any 6-foot-9, 6-foot-10 slow guy to hold Georges because he can shoot the ball from the outside,” said Will Clyburn, Iowa State’s leading scorer. “You can see in the games that the bigger players are having trouble guarding him and the smaller players are having trouble guarding him the same way.”
Niang grew up in Methuen, Mass., and played his prep ball at the Tilton School. Most of the attention went to teammate Nerlens Noel, perhaps the top recruit in the class of 2012 and now a starter at Kentucky.
While Noel’s athleticism made him the target of every coach in America, Niang’s overall versatility made him perhaps the most valuable player on his team.
Niang shattered the school record with 2,372 points, averaging 24.2 per game as a junior and 25.1 as a senior. Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg was blown away by the fact that Niang could carry such a heavy burden on a team that also featured the nation’s No. 1 prospect.
Though his recruitment didn’t match the frenzy surrounding Noel, Niang was a consensus top 100 recruit who ultimately chose the Cyclones over offers from the likes of Iowa, Providence, Texas A&M and Seton Hall.
“I think being a student of the game, always looking to get better has helped me as a player,” Niang said.
Iowa State coaches have been thrilled with Niang from the moment he arrived on campus. They view him as a major building block.
Niang’s strength and conditioning aren’t where they need to be just yet. But Niang’s size and skills have made him too valuable for the Cyclones to keep him stashed away on the bench.
“He still has work to do on his body,” Hoiberg said. “I think he’d be the first person to tell you that. But his basketball IQ makes up for a lot of that. His craftiness around the basket, his ability to finish is unbelievable. His footwork as good as I’ve ever seen for a player that age.”