Kansas State will face Iowa State senior Georges Niang for the final time in a regular-season game on Saturday at Hilton Coliseum, but Wildcats coach Bruce Weber already has plans to meet him again.
So long as the meeting takes place away from the basketball court, that is.
“We should go to his graduation and make sure he leaves that place,” Weber said, joking. “I love him. I love how he plays. He has been a great player for Iowa State, for the Big 12 and for college basketball. He doesn’t have the most athletic ability, but he knows how to play. He plays the game the right way, he plays to win. It is no fun going against him, but you really admire him.”
Other than Kansas senior Perry Ellis, whom Weber suggests should win Big 12 player of the year, there is no opposing player in the league Weber respects more.
Niang, a 6-foot-8 forward who is averaging 19.5 points and 6.2 rebounds for the Cyclones, was a freshman when Weber arrived at K-State in 2012. They have met eight times, with Iowa State going 5-3. Weber has never won at Hilton Coliseum. K-State last won there in 2011.
Niang put up good numbers as a young player, but he lacked the stamina needed to excel consistently. So he lost weight and became a better all-around player as an upperclassman. He has scored 2,055 points in his college career.
Weber said he tries to develop a new defensive strategy against Niang. Now is no different.
“It’s very hard,” Weber said.
This time around, he will turn to junior D.J. Johnson to provide solid defense. He also hopes senior forward Stephen Hurt can hold his own against Niang and Iowa State’s other mobile forwards when he is in the game.
It won’t be an easy task. Niang can play with his back to the basket or with the ball in his hands at the top of the key. He can shoot, drive, spin, pass and rebound. Few other players in the Big 12, and beyond, have the same skill set.
“He can play every position, one through four,” K-State senior Justin Edwards said. “If not the country, he is one of the most versatile players in the Big 12. He shoots it, puts it on the deck and has a mid-range game. He does it all.”
Niang has scored at least 11 points in every game this season, and has helped No. 17 Iowa State remain in the top 25 under new coach Steve Prohm. The Cyclones aren’t Big 12 title contenders like some expected, but they have been good enough in spurts to beat Oklahoma and Kansas. They defeated K-State at Bramlage Coliseum earlier this season 76-63, with Niang scoring 15.
The Wildcats know how important he will be in the rematch.
“We know he can do a lot of things on the offensive end,” K-State junior Wesley Iwundu said, “so we have to game plan the proper way against him and try to limit some of his stuff. We need to make it a tough game for him to give ourselves a chance.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett