Entering his senior year, Iowa State forward Georges Niang is back in search of a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
However, Niang and the rest of his teammates expected head coach Fred Hoiberg to return for a sixth season after leading the Cyclones to four consecutive postseason berths including a Sweet 16 appearance in 2013-14. But Hoiberg bolted for the NBA and got his opportunity to coach the Chicago Bulls.
The feature players along with Niang are seniors Jameel McKay and Abdel Nader and the team’s second-leading scorer from a year ago, junior Monte Morris. Niang finished third in the Big-12 with 15.5 points per game as he ranked fifth in 3-point percentage (.401) and 15th in field goal percentage (.468). He should only get better in his final collegiate season.
First-year Iowa State head coach is 41-year-old Steve Prohm. Prohm was a highly successful coach previously at Murray State where he posted a 104-29 overall record and a 54-10 showing in the Ohio Valley Conference. The Racers went 31-2 and made it the round of 32 in Prohm’s first year (2011) at the Kentucky school.
Prohm should pick up right where Hoiberg left off in terms of a high-flying attack after he helped Murray State rank 11th in scoring last season with 79.1 points per game. In comparison, the Cyclones ranked 14th with 78.4 points per game.
As for Iowa State’s senior leader, Niang, he has improved his numbers and overall play every year. The 6’8″, 230-pounder was named First-team All-Big 12 last season and took home the Big 12 Tournament MVP after the Cyclones beat Kansas 70-66 to capture the conference tournament.
A highly touted recruit from Tilton School (Mass.), Niang started 23 games as a freshman averaging 12.1 points per game as he shot a career-best .515 percent from the field. As a sophomore, he started all 34 games, posting a career-best 16.7 points and 3.6 assists per game.
He broke the fifth metatarsal in his right foot in the second round of the 2014 tournament, so it was impressive for him to get back and play that well as a junior this past season. He posted career-highs in minutes (30.7) and rebounds (5.4) along with the 3-point percentage mentioned previously and a .808 free throw percentage.
Even though the No. 3 seeded Cyclones were upset by No. 14 UAB this team has high expectations and rightfully so. Iowa State ranks fourth overall in Today’s U Preseason College Basketball Top 25 behind only Kentucky (No. 3), Maryland (No. 2) and North Carolina (No. 1).
Niang has a bright future as a versatile forward, who can play all both power forward and small forward. Teams that go to smaller lineups in the NBA such as Golden State could use him for just that. He makes clutch shots in games and could even play point guard at times under Prohm.
Sports Illustrated ranks him No. 1 overall in their story titled ‘Predicting the top-10 high-impact seniors for 2015-16‘.
The most amazing thing about Niang is that he’s the only player in the country with 1,500 points, 450 rebounds and 300 assists. He enters his final season fifth among NCAA players with 1,510 points overall.
Niang has a chance to become an even more polished player in Ames and that’s scary. He’s well on his way to a very successful pro career, but for now he wants to accomplish as much as he can in what should be a good year for a deep Iowa State group.