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November 2, 2012

Methuen's Niang 'a perfect fit' at Iowa State

President Niang, Mayor Hoiberg a formidable team at Iowa State

Few politicians are as beloved as the Fred “The Mayor” Hoiberg.

In reality, he’s just a basketball coach, but when the kid from Ames, Iowa, became an All-American at hometown Iowa State University, he earned the moniker and the fans’ never-ending adoration.

Now the head coach of his alma mater, Hoiberg finally may have met someone who someday could unseat him.

You might call Iowa State freshman forward Georges Niang of Methuen “The President.”

He was president of his class last year at Tilton School in New Hampshire and carries himself like a statesman. He can reach across the aisle and work with anybody.

Nerlens Noel of the University of Kentucky, who may be the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NBA draft, gushed over his former Tilton teammate.

He told The Eagle-Tribune in January: “He’s a one-of-a-kind player. I’ll be blessed if I can play with another like him in my lifetime.”

So who wields the true power, The Mayor or The President?

“I guess the president has a higher title,” said Hoiberg with a laugh during a recent telephone interview. “But he has to defer to me for a little while!”

A power struggle seems unlikely. It’s more a mutual admiration society.

It began in April of 2011, when Iowa State was the first bigtime school to offer the 6-7, 238-pound Niang a scholarship. Until then, Niang feared he’d have to settle for a mid-major school.

Other coaches thought he might be an inch or two too short or a step too slow. For Hoiberg, it was love at first sight.

“I talked to Leo Papile (Niang’s AAU coach with the Boston Amateur Basketball Club), who is a good friend of mine from my days in the NBA,” said Hoiberg, a shooting guard for 10 years with the Pacers, Bulls and Timberwolves. “He said, ‘I have a kid who is very under-recruited. I went to see him the following weekend. It was an open gym, but you could see all the things he could do.

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