The Iowa State men’s basketball program held its annual media day on Thursday. Cyclone Fanatic had the opportunity to go one-on-one with a man who was one of the top freshmen in the country last season, forward Georges Niang. Niang, averaged 12.1 points and 4.6 rebounds per game as a rookie. How will his role change in 2013-14? Enjoy this exclusive interview.
Q: The last time I talked to you we discussed about how you had lost weight and had started to take more control over your body. Do you feel better after this first week of practice compared to last year?
GN: I definitely feel like I am in better shape. We’re definitely getting after it a lot more at this point in the year. Practice started earlier so we are going to have to be able to go longer than we have in the past.
Q: Based off of your guys’ brutal non-conference schedule, does that heighten the intensity early on just knowing what is around the corner in November?
GN:Oh yeah, of course. This season we have to be ready early. I think that Michigan is our third game. They are no cupcake, that’s for sure. Two or three of those guys played in the national championship game. They are a very talented team so that excites you to have that team at home and be able to play against them. We have to be ready and organized.
Q: You appear to be a natural born leader but how different is it for you this year not being the freshman? Is it easier to be that vocal guy and get a response from your teammates?
GN:Sometimes I feel like it is easier and sometimes I think it is harder because you have to lead by example every play that you are out there. You can’t just say one thing and do another. If you say something, you have to do that thing out on the court. If you get at someone for not going hard, you need to go 10 times harder. You have to police yourself at this point. As a freshman, I didn’t really have to police myself. There were six seniors who policed our team and held us accountable. Now that they are gone, new people need to step into that role and I feel like I can step into that role.
Q: Coach Hoiberg has discussed how he thinks this could be a better defensive team than last year’s. How important do you think that is based off of the fact that clearly you guys won’t have as much firepower offensively with the 3-point ball as Iowa State has had the past couple of seasons?
GN: I think defense is a huge part of our success because like you said, we won’t have as much firepower. But defense wasn’t our stronghold last year. We sort of let games slip through our fingers by not playing as much defense as we should. If we do that this year, we will be a better offensive team.
Q: Regarding DeAndre Kane: He is the hot topic today. Everybody wants to talk about where he’ll play. Is all of this point guard stuff overblown in your opinion just based off of how Coach Hoiberg likes to play?
GN: Yeah, I think at some point. There is no real “one” in Coach Hoiberg’s offense. There are a lot of people who can handle the ball on this team and Coach Hoiberg is okay with them bringing the ball up the court. But DeAndre is going to run our team. He is a fifth-year guy and a great leader. I am totally content with him having the reigns and running this team.