Losing to Win
Every March loss hurts, but the sting after Iowa State's Sweet 16 exit against UConn last spring was especially sharp for 6'8" forward Georges Niang. In the Cyclones' opening win a weekend earlier, Niang scored 24 points but broke the fifth metatarsal in his right foot, reducing him to a boot-footed spectator for the 81--76 loss to the Huskies.
During some injury-induced soul-searching, Niang realized he had taken basketball for granted. So he cleaned up his eating habits and amped up his workouts, dropping roughly 30 pounds (to 230). The result was an eye-catching set of before-and-after photos that went viral over the summer. Coach Fred Hoiberg also reports that Niang is "more efficient" in his movements—and he was already one of the nation's most creative post scorers. Niang's increased stamina will help him avoid fatigue-related fouls. "He was our closer last year," Hoiberg says. "He's a guy I have to have late in games."
More is gone from Ames than just Niang's extra weight: Big 12 Player of the Year Melvin Ejim and point guard DeAndre Kane graduated. Newcomers Bryce Dejean-Jones and Jameel McKay will fill those holes with the help of forward Dustin Hogue and surehanded playmaker Monté Morris. But's it's the slimmed-down senior who will carry the team.
With 2014--15 Projected Stats
ROUND OF 32
ROUND OF 32
TELLING NUMBER 4.79
Monté Morris's assist-to-turnover ratio (134 to 28) during his freshman season. He shattered the NCAA record of 3.96, set by Tyler Newbold of Utah State in 2008--09. Morris's mark of 6.91 in Big 12 games led the conference by 4.45.
DAVID E. KLUTHO/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED
A slimmer Niang will have a bigger impact.