Sunday, March 15, 2015

I Don't Hate Georges Niang

Watching the Laettner lovefest on ESPN Sunday night only further cemented my respect for one of the greatest players I've watched play my beloved Kansas Jayhawks in basketball.  I'm talking about Iowa State Cyclone Georges Niang.  I'm guessing he may not come back for his senior year, but Niang has been a very special player in the three years that he has terrorized the Big 12.

My great regret is that I've never gotten to see him play in person.  And despite his ability to absolutely light up KU, I don't hate him, like I did Anthony Peeler, Mitch Richmond, Chuckie Williams or Steve Stepanovich.  His play demands respect.

I go back 40 plus years to the days of great KU foes like Cliff Meely of Colorado, Lon Kruger of Kansas State, Willie Smith at Mizzou, Alvin Adams and Wayman Tisdale of Oklahoma, I could name a half dozen or so more players that were simply a joy to watch during their tenures in the Big 8 and Big 12 conference.  These guys played hard and they played with class.

So does Niang.  I love watching Niang, a ball handling power forward with a beautiful stroke from three and an ability to glide through the lane with beautiful post moves that harken back to the days of when big men actually had post moves.  The two KU players that come to mind when I think of Georges is Nick Collison and Rafe LaFrentz.

Niang has the ability to rise to the level of his competition.  He's physical, without playing dirty, you can tell he respects those he plays against and most important, his teammates feed off of his emotion.  He is the quintessential college basketball player with a whole slew of old man moves.  It makes me wonder whether his lack of hopes will translate into the NBA game, but Georges Niang is a winner and the NBA always has room in its rosters for winners.

I don't think Niang has the supporting cast to make a deep run with Iowa State through the tournament but he's the kind of singular player who can do the impossible.  He could put Iowa State into the Final 4 just on his grit and determination alone.  Unfortunately the Cyclones don't have much of a bench.  But enjoy it while you can, because this might be the last great run of the great Georges Niang.

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