The Big 12 quietly has some stellar freshmen playing major roles in their teams’ success this season. We’re very familiar with the impact of Marcus Smart and Isaiah Austin, but Iowa State’s Georges Niang has quietly surprised the nation with his solid contributions for the Cyclones. Niang hails from the Tilton School, the same prep school that has produced Missouri’s Alex Oriakhi and Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel, so there is certainly no lack of star power.
Niang is a nice combination of size and length. He has filled out his 6’7” 245 pound frame nicely and can play several positions. He started with a minor role under Fred Hoiberg, but has quickly worked his way into the starting lineup. By mid-season, he was inserted into the starting lineup and is now playing meaningful minutes in every game. So far, Niang has averaged 11.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 1.7 assists as a freshman in a challenging conference.
Niang is an efficient scorer, with much of his offense coming from high percentage shots near the rim and in the paint. He has the versatility to step beyond the 3-point line and is knocking them down at a 38% mark. There seem to be two weaknesses in his game right now. The first is that he is a poor free throw shooter. He is only making 65% of his free throws, but this should improve as he matures. The other major weakness in his game is his proneness to fouling. He has been in foul trouble in several games, which limit his effectiveness and his time on the floor. In the last several games, he has come close to fouling out.
Despite being a freshman, Niang has still had some impressive games in Big 12 play. He had 16 points, eight rebounds, and two assists in a loss at Oklahoma State, where he spent a majority of his time defending Michael Cobbins, but was also isolated on Le’Bryan Nash in the post on several possessions. Niang had nine points and six rebounds in a loss at Kansas State, in which he had a lot of trouble defending Thomas Gipson one on one and in providing help defense on Rodney McGruder. These would be tough match-ups for most college forwards, let alone a freshman who is still acclimating to the speed and strength of experienced players like Cobbins, Nash, and Gipson. Niang has caught the eye of several scouts and they are impressed with his body and frame. He should be a major contributor for the Cyclones for the seasons to come.
Updated Big 12 Power Rankings
1. Kansas 2. Oklahoma State 3. Kansas State 4. Iowa State 5. Baylor 6. Oklahoma 7. West Virginia 8. Texas 9. Texas Tech 10. TCU
Amit Tailor is a Scout and Correspondent for NetScouts Basketball and covers the Big 12.