After averaging 12.1 points and 4.6 rebounds while shooting .515 from the floor (5th best in the conference) and .392 on 3-pointers, you’d think he’d be among the Big 12’s elite. Oh, and he scored 19 points in the first-round NCAA Tourney upset of Notre Dame.
But six players made the preseason Big 12 first-team and six more made honorable mention. The Methuen native was nowhere to be found.
“He plays with a chip on his shoulder,” said ISU coach Fred Hoiberg as quoted in a story by Rob Gray of the Cedar Rapids Gazette. “I think he’s always been an under-ranked player. And again this year, you didn’t see him on any of the preseason all-conference teams. I know he took offense to that.”
He’ll try to show them beginning this afternoon when the Cyclones open their season hosting UNC-Wilmington.
As he’s done so many times, Niang vows to prove the doubters wrong.
“Making an All-Big 12 team is something I strive for,” said Niang.
But the wins are more important. He won a prep national title at Tilton (N.H.) School and starred for last year’s NCAA tourney team.
“I try not to look at what I’ve done and focus on the present,” said Niang. “What I did was great but it’s not where I want to be.”
With Melvin Ejim (knee) out a few more weeks, that means ISU is missing 63 points and 26 rebounds a game from last year.
That leaves Niang, the master of the inside-outside game, as the only one of the top six scorers back for the Cyclones.
“As a freshman, people don’t really know who you are,” said Niang, who earned a 3.09 GPA last year, earning the business and marketing major a spot on the Big 12 All-Academic rookie team. “This is totally different. Now they know every move I can do. It’s been an adjustment even in practice. Last year with six seniors, I wasn’t looked to lead. Now I have to do everything right and go above and beyond.”