If you think we've talked ad nauseam about the greatness of Georges Niang for the last few weeks, you're right. There's no overstating the brilliance of his career and coming off an all-time final act as a senior, it's only a matter of time before they hang #31 in the rafters of Hilton Coliseum. But alas, it's over.
Now, Steve Prohm and staff have to figure out just how in the hell they replace Niang.
Truth be told, it probably won't happen, nor is it necessarily possible to replace everything that Niang brought to the floor and the program. The phrase "one of a kind" tends to be overused, but make no mistake, Georges Niang is truly one of a kind.
Before we start talking about the task that lies ahead for Prohm, let's first get a better understanding of what exactly has to be replaced.
We know that Niang averaged 20.5 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game this past season. We also know that he played 33.2 minutes per game, shot 54.6% from the field, 39.2% from outside and 80.7% from the line. But those traditional numbers don't exactly tell the entire story of the type of production Niang brought to the Cyclones.
- Niang played 82.1% of all available minutes, which was third on the team behind Monte Morris and Matt Thomas.
- With an offensive rating of 116.9, Niang was third again on the team behind Morris and Thomas, but he was used on roughly 28% of all offensive possessions while he was on the floor, which easily led the team and was 96th nationally, according to kenpom.com. For reference, KenPom charted over 2,200 players in the Division-1 ranks.
- Niang also took nearly 30% of Iowa State's shots and still managed to post a ridiculous 60% effective field goal percentage.
- Showing his versatility, Niang also had an assist rate of close to 20%, which is unsurprisingly, one of the top marks for all players 6'8" or taller.
Before we get too deep into this data, I also want to point out that Niang was used on 26.9% of all possessions during the '14-'15 campaign, which would have been the next highest mark if we expanded this chart.
Okay, so what does this information tell us? Clearly, the '06-'07 was a two-man team (61.6% between Taylor and Hubalek!). Also seeing multiple appearances from Niang and Stinson didn't surprise me, but a double cameo from Hubalek? What the hell? The lesson as always; the McDermott years were lean times.
This list though, pretty much tells the tale of each of those teams of yore, signifying and providing quantitative evidence of each season's alpha dog. One of the most surprising entries on this list has to be from Niang's sophomore season in '13-'14. On a team that featured the Big 12 Player of the Year in Melvin Ejim and an unstoppable veteran guard in Kane, it was actually Niang that was the man. So you know how Fred Hoiberg always said that '13-'14 team could have won a national championship had Niang not broken his foot? Maybe The Mayor isn't all that crazy.
But back to the present matter at hand. Throwing out the ridiculous usage rates of Taylor and Brackins, who were singular stars on overmatched rosters, Niang's senior year and his role in the offense was very comparable to what White did in '11-'12 and what Stinson did in '04-'05. Off the top of most Cyclone fan's heads, you'd probably mention those seasons along with the efforts of Marcus Fizer ('99-'00) and Jamaal Tinsley ('00-'01) as some of the greatest individuals efforts of this millennium as far as Iowa State players go. So yeah, that's what Niang just accomplished and coincidentally, Prohm must find a way to replace.
But it's not just Niang that has to be replaced. Abdel Nader and Jameel McKay have also exhausted their eligibility, leaving the Iowa State front court with only the returning production of Deonte Burton. Next season's team is going to look drastically different, but the good news for Cyclone fans and especially Prohm, is that there will (read: should) be a stellar backcourt returning.
I already alluded to the amount of minutes and offensive efficiencies of Morris and Thomas above, but they'll of course be joined by Naz Long, who should receive a medical hardship waiver. There's also the return front by Burton and Iowa State will welcome in a host of newcomers, including Northern Illinois grad transfer, Darrell Bowie, along with Donovan Jackson, Solomon Young, Jakolby Long and of course, the diamond of the '16 class, Emmnanuel Malou. Nick Weiler-Babb will also give Steve Prohm depth on the wing and I'd suspect that the way the roster looks today on April 6th, will change over the next month or two as a player or two may leave the program.
We'll talk more in the coming weeks on how exactly Prohm goes about replacing Niang's production. What's encouraging is that Prohm should have more and better options at his disposal than he did in year one, giving him the flexibility to distribute the task of replacing Niang (and Nader and McKay) over a deeper stable of talent.