Wizards

Niang comes into his own for Iowa State

201301121507544665244-p2.jpeg

Niang comes into his own for Iowa State

AMES, Iowa (AP) 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) on Wednesday 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 as Hoiberg transitions from a transfer-filled roster to one anchored by four-year players like Niang.

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.''

Niang opened the season with double-digit scoring outings in each of his first four games. But the reality of how tough college ball was going to be first sunk in for Niang at a tournament in Las Vegas in late November, where he was rendered ineffective in losses to Cincinnati and UNLV.

Niang bounced back quickly, though, emerging as Iowa State's top post player off the bench.

By the time Big 12 play came around, Hoiberg was ready to give the inexperienced Niang a chance to start at the league's most hostile environment, Kansas.

Hoiberg wanted to neutralize Kansas star Jeff Withey's ability to block shots by using Niang to draw him more toward the perimeter. Niang responded with eight straight points to start the game, and Iowa State almost pulled off the upset.

Hoiberg kept Niang in the starting lineup Saturday against Texas. Niang rewarded his coach with a career-high 18 points.

``He's not real flashy. He just goes out and plays efficient basketball,'' Hoiberg said. ``He's just a smart basketball player. We're definitely better when he's on the court.''

The emergence of Niang and sophomore center Percy Gibson has helped the Cyclones overcome what many perceived as a lack of depth in the post.

Niang is doing all he can to beef up in hopes of being even more of a presence in the paint. But he's already shown more than enough skill to earn the trust of his coaches and teammates.

``The more fit I become, I can be more versatile,'' he said. ``The more versatile you are, the more minutes you can play. If you can run forever, you can play forever.''

---

Follow Luke Meredith on Twitter: www/twitter.com/LukeMeredithAP

Quick Links

Zion Williamson joins Rui Hachimura by signing with the Jordan brand

Zion Williamson joins Rui Hachimura by signing with the Jordan brand

 Rui Hachimura and Zion Williamson, two of the most high-profile NBA rookies from the 2019 NBA Draft class, have joined forces on a new team, Jordan Brand. 

The New Orleans Pelicans' new star and No. 1 overall draft pick announced Tuesday afternoon that he'll be signing with Jumpman on a multi-year deal; the details of the deal have yet to be revealed. 

This decision comes about a month after Hachimura became the first Japanese-born player to sign with the brand

Both players have entered the NBA with an incredible amount of fanfare and hype surrounding their transitions to the Association. Hachimura was the star attraction for 61 media members from 21 different outlets in Japan during the NBA Summer League, while Zion's American media presence, understandably, was also substantial.

When Hachimura signed in June it was a dream come true for him and his family. Williamson shared similar sentiments when outlining why he decided to join the Jordan Brand team:

“I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of the Jordan Brand family," Williamson told Nike News. "Since I was a kid, I dreamed of making it to the league and having the type of impact on the game Michael Jordan had and continues to have today. He was one of those special athletes I looked up to, and I really can’t express how happy and excited I am for this journey.”

Since their thrilling faceoff in college, when Gonzaga edged an 89-87 victory over the Blue Devils thanks to Hachimura's 20 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 blocks, the two talents have experienced a similar, yet unique, tip-off to their careers.

It's said that if you look good you play good, and it seems both Hachimura and Williamson have that first part figured out.  

MORE WIZARDS NEWS: ​​​​​

Quick Links

Redskins365 Episode 2: This Is Where I Wanted To Be

Redskins365 Episode 2: This Is Where I Wanted To Be

Over the 2019 offseason, the Washington Redskins periodically released episodes to a new series called "Redskins 365". Here, viewers can get an all-access look into all the important moments leading up to the 2019-20 season.

In Episode 2 titled "This Is Where I Wanted To Be" the focus in on the players, both new and old.

When free agency opened up during the 2019 offseason the biggest splash the Redskins made was the acquisition of safety Landon Collins. Heading over from a divisional rival, Collins as well as other members of the organization break down the signing and his fit within the team. The safety also shares his story about receiving a Sean Taylor jersey and what it means to join the team his idol played on.

The episode also touches on other free agent signings Ereck Flowers and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as well as the trade for quarterback Case Keenum. Head coach Jay Gruden gives his thoughts on the newest member of the QB room and explains how he'll fit in with Colt McCoy.

Speaking of McCoy, the show then takes a detour to Austin, Texas. There, McCoy reflects on his time at the University of Texas as well as his up and down NFL career that included a season-ending injury just a season ago.

From one Big 12 star to another, the episode concludes with a spotlight on Adrian Peterson. After a whirlwind first season in Washington, AP is back for more. The always-dependable runner shares his thoughts on his first season and explains how he deals with expectations.

MORE REDSKINS NEWS: