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AMES — Georges Niang felt some nostalgia when he walked in the building.
On his short hiatus from the Indiana Pacers during the NBA All-Star weekend, Niang made his way back to Hilton Coliseum to watch Iowa State host TCU.
“It feels good to be back here,” Niang said before the Cyclones’ 84-71 win. “It’s going to be weird and interesting at the same time to be here as a spectator instead of part of the show.”
Niang was selected 50th overall by the Pacers in last June’s draft, and has averaged 4.1 minutes in 22 games played. The changes from the collegiate game to the NBA, he said, are pretty stark.
“Coming from college I thought I knew it all, had a high basketball IQ and really I knew nothing,” Niang said. “It’s a tough adjustment.
“The speed, the athletes and the size of the guys, you really have to be focused 100 percent of the time and give 100 percent effort every night and I think that’s extremely demanding but that’s why it’s the best league in the world.
“We played the Bulls our third game of the year and I went up for a rebound and I was watching the ball coming into my hands and [Robin Lopez] just came soaring and was like a foot over me, grabbed the rebound and I hit him and then I hit the floor and that was sort of the, ‘Welcome to the NBA moment.’”
Niang has bounced back and forth a few times between Indiana and its D-League affiliate, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. Former Iowa Hawkeyes Jarrod Uthoff and Adam Woodbury, who are both on the Mad Ants roster, have made those short stints interesting for Niang.
“Since we were wearing the same jerseys I was telling them how great they were and making them feel good,” Niang said with a laugh. “Off the court I had to let them know what my record was against them.
“Jarrod Uthoff kept reminding me how he had 30 points against us in the first half of that one game. But I reminded him who won at the end of the day. They’re both great dudes.”
Niang spoke to his former ISU teammates in the locker room following the win and still keeps pretty close tabs on them. He and ISU coach Steve Prohm exchange texts on a regular basis, sometimes talking about the nuts and bolts of a given game and others about how life is going.
“They just keep showing up every day, fighting and winning,” Niang said. “Even through heartbreak and some tough losses, they still show up every day. I watched practice (Friday) and I was like, ‘Man I don’t remember going this hard in practice.’ They went hard.
“I’m happy to call myself a Cyclone as long as this tradition keeps living on."