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DAYTON, Ohio — Dear America,
Meet our good buddy Georges Niang.
Remember him? He’s that guy, Nerlens Noel’s old teammate, who you all said wasn’t athletic enough?
Niang doesn’t jump out of the gym. He doesn’t possess the body of an Anthony Bennett.
Yet in the first NCAA Tournament game of Niang’s career, a 76-58 rout of Notre Dame, Iowa State’s "rookie" went 9-for-13 and led the Cyclones with 19 points. Niang wasn’t a bit nervous and he did all of this against a team whose bigs were supposed to beat up on the Cyclones too.
Remember all of that chatter?
Hey America – I bet you wish you would have recruited Georges Niang now.
“Not only does he go around and finish over them but then he tells them about it on the court,” said Fred Hoiberg after the game. “He has that swagger.”
Niang did open his mouth a time or two during the 40 minute spanking that the Cyclones gave the Fighting Irish on Friday night.
“Sometimes we even have to tell him to shut up,” said senior point guard and team leader Korie Lucoius. “Sometimes he talks a little bit too much but that’s just the type of player that he is. He loves the game.”
Yes indeed America, Niang, who Hoiberg constantly brags has some of the best basketball IQ he’s ever seen, does like to talk. A lot actually. He’s a chatterbox. But unlike many people in this world, when Niang talks, he actually backs it up.
“He’s got a couple of technical’s this year by doing that but that’s who he is,” said Hoiberg. “That’s what gets him going. The kid has played with a chip on his shoulder because he has been so under-appreciated and undervalued his entire life. Playing with those great McDonalds All-American players and not getting the recognition he deserves.”
America – Iowa State is NOT DePaul. And Georges Niang is a hell of a lot better than pretty much anybody gives him credit for.
“I know some comments were said in their interviews that was some stuff that we didn’t appreciate," said Niang. "They were sort of calling out me and Melvin and how we can’t guard them. What have me and Melvin done? We have played against bigger guys the whole year. This is nothing new to us. It felt like our backs weren’t up against the wall. We just had to bring our lunch pail and go to work again.”
You missed out on a gem America. Niang, a former student body president at the Tilton School, is not only crazy talented when it comes to playing basketball but he is absolutely adored by his teammates. In fact, fifth-year senior Anthony Booker admittedly admires the guy.
“I have been amazed since the day that he stepped on campus,” said Booker. “He carries himself in a very mature way. He was mature beyond his years. Iowa State got a good one.”
Niang’s performance on Friday night in front of you guessed it, all of America, has been his destiny all along. Iowa State fans hope it is only the start of it too. Not only does Niang play the game of basketball like few others, he studies it and that’s what makes him so good. What Niang lacks physically, he makes up for with his brain.
He’s had success against Kansas big man Jeff Withey. Niang was told all week that he and teammate Melvin Ejim were too soft to have success against the bulky Irish. But Niang did what Niang does. He didn’t shy away from the big uglies. Without hesitation, he went right at them like the aggressor in a boxing match.
“When I watch these players I don’t see people attack them a lot,” said Niang. “I see them going to shot blockers and fade aways. I think attacking is your best option at that point. You don’t want to fade away because that gives them the advantage. At this level, a lot of them haven’t been attacked because people are afraid of them.”
Georges Niang isn’t afraid of anybody and the later the Cyclones play into the month of March, the more this freshman keeps on proving just how special he truly is.
And America, when Iowa State meets No. 7 Ohio State in the third round on Sunday at 11:15 a.m., do NOT refer to Georges Niang as a freshman.
“I try not to think of myself as a freshman out there because you’ve got to be confident no matter what you do or you won’t be very good at it.”
Enough said Georges. Enough said. You might technically be a freshman, but you play basketball like a fifth-year senior.
Like Hoiberg noted, everybody has always doubted Niang. That’s been the case since he was a recruitable athlete back in New England. Hoiberg was the first coach in America to offer Niang and now, The Mayor is reaping the benefits.
And to the hundreds of college basketball coaches in America, now he is making you pay.
Man America, you whiffed big time on Georges Niang and for that, the Cyclone Nation thanks you.