Georges Niang was at the Sprint Center on Wednesday to talk about the upcoming basketball season, but the Iowa State junior forward spent much of his time talking about his diet.
That will happen when you lose 30 pounds.
“Ice cream was the hardest thing to give up,” Niang said. “I am a diehard ice cream guy. That and cookies, I love for sure. I started eating salads and smoothies, lots of vegetables, anything healthy really.”
At 6 feet 7 and 240 pounds, Niang now sports a lean frame, and he is proud of his transformation. But it was not as if anyone was urging him to lose weight. Before breaking his foot in the NCAA Tournament last season, he was one of the Big 12’s best players.
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Niang averaged 16.7 points and 4.5 rebounds with a figurative spare tire wrapped around his midsection.
“I needed to lose it,” Niang said. “My body was breaking down at the end of the year. I don’t want to blame my broken foot on that, but I could feel inside my body that a change was needed. Not just from a physical aspect, but a mental aspect. I was mentally fatigued at the end of last year carrying all that extra weight.”
College basketball practices have just begun, but Niang already feels like a different player.
Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said Niang is now capable of staying in games for eight straight minutes without a break, compared with about four minutes a year ago.
Also, Niang’s big-play ability has never been more evident.
“I dunk a lot easier now than I ever could before,” Niang said.
Continuity at Texas Tech
The Texas Tech basketball team has seen coaches come and go since the departure of Pat Knight in 2011. Billy Gillispie came on board for one season, then interim coach Chris Walker was in charge the next. Then Tubby Smith was hired, and the program finally made progress.
Though the team lost considerable talent and is picked to finish last this season, Smith hopes his continuity as coach will have a positive impact.
“Consistency and continuity is the key to any program that has had long tradition and built tradition and success over a long period of time,” Smith said. “You’ll find that a coach has been in place for a long period of time.”
More from TCU’s Anderson
Kyan Anderson quietly had a strong year at TCU last season, averaging 17 points a game for a team that was winless in Big 12 play. If he plays that well again, coach Trent Johnson is optimistic about the season ahead.
“He has better players around him,” Johnson said. “What he did last year, for a team that was decimated by injuries, was pretty impressive because he always kept playing and kept competing, and his percentages, whether it was scoring or shooting free throws, will improve.”
The next step for OU
Oklahoma won 20 games last season, but none of them came in the postseason. The Sooners lost their first game in both the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments. Coach Lon Kruger expects more this season.
“The experience that they gained from last year, I think will help,” Kruger said. “They know how tough it is to win conference games. They know how tough it is to win postseason games. They want to do that. They worked awfully hard in the offseason in preparation for the start of practice.”
Versatility at Baylor
Baylor coach Scott Drew lost some of his best players last season, but he is excited to lead a deep, versatile lineup this season.
“I would think we’ll be a team that will be tougher to prepare for,” Drew said, “because there won’t just be one or two people you can focus and key on.”
Turner hype at Texas
Texas landed its biggest recruit in several years when Myles Turner chose the Longhorns over Kansas, Duke and others in the offseason. Much is expected of the big man this season, but Texas coach Rick Barnes likes his attitude most.
“He wanted to be a part of the program where he could be a part of it but not necessarily him be the program,” Barnes said.
Defense key at West Virginia
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins made it clear that his team will need to play strong defense to succeed in the Big 12 this year.
“We’ve been kind of like your dog with the electric fence,” Huggins said. “We run right to that three and kind of stop right there. So we’re going to actually try to run in past the three-point line this year and see if that works.”