Entering the NCAA tournament on the heels of winning their first Big 12 tournament title since 2000, Iowa State had the look of a team capable of making a run to the Final Four. With the triumvirate of guard DeAndre Kane and forwards Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang leading the way, Fred Hoiberg was in charge of one of the nation’s most efficient offensive attacks.
But the Cyclones’ Round of 64 win over North Carolina Central came at a cost, as Niang broke his right foot late in the second half. While Iowa State had enough to get past North Carolina in the next round, thanks in large part to the Herculean effort put forth by Kane, they were unable to advance any further as eventual champion UConn eliminated them in the Sweet 16.
With Kane and Ejim out of eligibility, Niang will be Iowa State’s most productive returnee in 2014-15 and that makes his health even more important for the Cyclones. On Sunday the 6-foot-7 forward made his return to game action, playing in the YMCA Capital City Summer League in West Des Moines, Iowa.
It was a productive afternoon for Niang, who accounted for 29 points and 11 rebounds. And in speaking with Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register, Niang mentioned the work he’s done in not only rehabbing his foot but also changing his body.
Niang finishes above the rim better than last season because his body has changed — he’s down 20 pounds, to around 220.
“I’m working to get my body fit,” he said. “It’s more like a lifestyle change, than a quick fix. I’m working on eating healthy. Guys tell me your body is a temple, so you might as well treat it as one.
“You can’t put diesel fuel in a regular car — and you have to put good stuff in your body. When you do, good things will come out of it.”
Niang and fellow forward Dustin Hogue are Iowa State’s two returning double-figure scorers, and they’ll have help from players such as Naz Long, Monte Morris, Matt Thomas (who’s currently suspended) and newcomers Bryce Dejean-Jones and Jameel McKay. With that being the case the cupboard certainly isn’t bare in Ames, but Niang’s transformation will be something to keep an eye on as Iowa State looks to make another NCAA tournament appearance.
Playing in a summer league game may not be a big deal when compared to the battles of the Big 12, but being healthy enough to do so is a positive step for Georges Niang.