Sky's The Limit

Able to do most everything on the court, Georges Niang's strength is his versatility

Anxious to atone for Iowa State's gut-wrenching loss to Ohio State in the NCAA tournament and absent Melvin Ejim, Georges Niang encumbered himself with the hopes and dreams of his team in an inconsequential exhibition against Augustana.

His final line: 5-for-15 shooting, seven rebounds, six assists and five turnovers, one being a travel early in the game as he attempted a post move.

"I just felt it was the first game, especially the way the season ended last year, I've been anxious to get out here for a while now," Niang said. "I just let my emotions get the best of me out there and so on and so forth."

Niang's correct to feel a bigger burden in his sophomore season. He shined as a freshman, shooting 51.5 percent from the floor and scoring 12 points per game. After much veteran attrition, Niang finds himself an elder statesman for the Cyclones, especially with Ejim out the first month or so.

The trick is to somehow retaining that efficiency — though Niang did take and miss too many long two-pointers last season, more than a third of his shots, per — while balancing more responsibility.

Niang's heat chart from last season (the greener, the worse):

"Not having Melvin out there I felt I needed to score," Niang said of his mindset in the exhibition. "I didn't really need to, those freshmen played a hell of a game. If I press less, I'll be alright. I'm not too worried about it, talked to the coaches about it."

One of the funnier wrinkles of preseason Cyclones talk was how often Hoiberg referenced Niang's body, which he toned in the offseason: "Still not Mr. Olympia but looks a little tighter," Hoiberg cracked at the local media day.

Niang's strength, skill and 6-foot-7 frame make him a somewhat of a basketball paradox as the basketball world waits to find out just how good he can be. When Hoiberg first scouted him, he was besting Nerlens Noel in the paint. He can roam the perimeter, too, knocking down 39 percent of his three-point attempts as a freshman. He can defer to his teammates, with a career-high seven assists against Kansas. Two of the prettier plays against Augustana were backdoor passes made by Niang.

He can do all that and play almost all day, averaging 27 minutes in 23 starts in 2012-13, a number that should swell up this season.

"He plays with a chip on his shoulder ... always been an under-ranked player," Hoiberg said. "You didn't see him on any preseason all-conference teams and he took offense to that. He can do it all, from every spot on the floor. When you talk about versatility as a basketball player, Georges stands out as much as anybody."

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