Iowa State was fortunate enough to be home to a three-headed monster last season in Big 12 Player of the Year Melvin Ejim, DeAndre Kane and Georges Niang. Two of the heads have now been severed with the losses of Ejim and Kane, which leaves the spotlight solely on Niang, who will begin his junior campaign as one of the Big 12’s most complete forces on the hardwood.
Contrary to popular belief around the Big 12 hoops atmosphere, it wasn’t Ejim or Kane who led all shot takers for the Cyclones, it was Niang, who cashed in on 222 of his 468 attempts. But despite heaving 32 more shots than Ejim and 37 more than Kane, Niang was far from being the team’s first option offensively.
As for next season, that all changes with Iowa State’s success being placed exclusively upon his 6-foot-7, 240-pound frame.
Luckily for Niang, with higher expectations comes the freedom to compile a much higher shot clip and much less competition snagging boards. But with what will probably be somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 shot attempts, with around 200 of those likely to be coming from beyond the arc, that future success is also dependent on how efficient Niang can be with that much offensive freedom.
For example, Niang shot 47 percent on his 468 attempts from the field last season, including a beyond mediocre 32 percent from deep. Compare that to his freshman year where he shot 51 percent from the field and 39 percent from downtown. This was on 163 fewer attempts, including 50 less from 3-point range.
It’s starting to look like Niang’s freedom to shoot could become a gift and a curse in 2014-15.
A gift with the reins being handed completely to a guy who averaged 16.7 points and 3.6 assists per game last season, which will undoubtedly increase next season to around the 20 points and 5.5 assists region. This would be whether his efficiency stays increases, decreases or simply stays where it’s at with the significantly larger quantity of shots he will see.
But if his percentages do increase, the reward would quite possibly be a gift in the form another NCAA tournament berth for Iowa State and the school’s second straight Big 12 POY award.
On the other hand, if Niang’s consistency continues to fall, as it did from his freshman to sophomore seasons, his freedom to shoot could turn into a curse for the Cyclones, who will need every bit of help possible to stay relevant alongside Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas in the Big 12.
Of course, with the overall skill set and well-roundedness of Niang, another drop off in efficiency wouldn’t mean he under-produced, considering his scoring numbers should improve either way. But with Iowa State lacking the star power and versatility it had last season with it’s star level talent, the Cyclone’s fate falls on the shoulders of Georges Niang.