Injured Niang keeps his spirits high
There was every reason for Georges Niang to be emotionally crushed.
The versatile 6-foot-7, 240-pound sophomore forward at Iowa State, who calls Methuen home, had suffered a season-ending metatarsal fracture in his right foot during the Cyclones’ NCAA Division 1 second-round tourney win over North Carolina Central in San Antonio.
Niang scored a team-high 24 points in the victory, including 5 in the second half before he was forced to the bench with the broken bone.
But in the immediate aftermath, the 20-year-old did not sulk. He did not complain.
As he sat at his locker surrounded by reporters, Niang calmly conveyed his pain, which, he admitted, was more mental than physical, before optimistically uttering how he believed his teammates would “get his back” moving forward.
“That’s something, us as a team, we focused on,” he explained in a recent phone interview. “It’s not about the individual, but it’s about the team. “I didn’t want to take any of the positive energy away by my injury.”
Even his mom, Alison , who made the trip to the AT&T Center, was impressed.
“We were texting back and forth as I waited for a taxi back to the hotel,” she said. “He was just so positive. He was texting things like, ‘We’re going to be OK. We’re a great team. We’ll all pull together. I’ll be their biggest cheerleader.’
“He amazed me. I was thinking, ‘Where does he get this from?’”
Fresh off a Big 12 tournament title — its first since 2000 — Iowa State had collected four straight wins entering the Big Dance. But after beating North Carolina Central (93-75) and then the University of North Carolina (85-83) minus Niang, the Cyclones were eliminated by Connecticut, 81-76.
The loss of Niang, who averaged 16.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists over 34 games this season, was critical given his unique offensive skill.
Niang can score with his back to the basket or facing up from 15 feet. He can also consistently knock down 3-pointers, and is a deft ballhandler, which takes pressure off the Cyclones backcourt and allows him to get his teammates into their offensive sets.
Following Niang’s injury, Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg said, “He’s a guy that’s closed games for us all year long against really good teams — Michigan, BYU, Iowa — some of the Big 12 games. . . . You can’t replace Georges with one guy.”
With Iowa State’s season over, Niang’s attention has turned to his rehab.
For the second time in his career, he will have to work his way back to full strength.
Niang suffered the exact same injury — a fracture of the fifth metatarsal — on his left foot as a sophomore at the Tilton School in New Hampshire. But he recovered and eventually set the school scoring record with 2,372 points.
“It took me a whole summer to get back,” Niang recalled. “But I am not going to let that hold me back this time. I have great resources here at Iowa State, and I feel like I can make [conditioning] strides while I am injured. That is really what I am going to focus on.”
After his surgery March 25, in which he had a screw inserted in his right foot, Niang faces a six-week recovery period. Once he is cleared medically, rehab will follow.
When he is not on the ISU campus this summer, he will be back in Methuen training with his former coach and mentor, Rick Gorman , who is executive director of the North Andover Youth and Recreation Services and founder of the BST Academy and New England Storm, an Amateur Athletic Union team on which Niang played before joining the Boston Amateur Basketball Club.
“Georges is the hardest-working kid I have ever been around,” Gorman said. “I promise he is going to come back better and stronger than he was before the injury. He has a drive that very few kids have. I think that is what separates him from even the peers he’s playing against now.”
Asked whether the Cyclones would be a good bet to make next year’s Final Four, Niang responded with unwavering optimism, “I think you should,” he said. “You’d be a smart [person].”
John Moriarty never saw it coming.
Unlike the countless pass rushers he faced this past season — the 6-foot-3, 265-pound right tackle from Massachusetts Maritime Academy allowed just one sack in 509 passing/rushing attempts — Moriarty was blindsided when he learned he had received the Jack Daly Award for Academics, Citizenship and Football, which is presented by the Jack Grinold Eastern Massachusetts chapter of the National Football Foundation.
“It’s a huge honor,” said the 22-year-old Wilmington resident. “I know the two guys that got it before me. They definitely deserved it. Just to be considered within the company of someone from Bentley and MIT and Jack Daly, himself, is a huge honor.”
Moriarty, who has a 3.858 cumulative grade point average and earned Capital One Academic All-America honors after being named to the Division 3 football national second team, joins Bentley’s Bryant Johnson (2012) and MIT’s Ethan Peterson as recipients.
He will receive the award at the Grinold chapter’s Scholar-Athlete Banquet on May 4.
The Ipswich High tandem of retired coach Jack Welch and team historian John Thomas will also be recognized. Welch will be presented the Ron Burton Distinguished American Award, while Thomas will receive the Ed Schluntz Contributions to Amateur Football Award.
Thirty-three high school scholar-athletes, including Jordan Corbett-Frank (Winthrop High), Zach Duguid (Beverly High), Jonathon Saurman (Austin Prep), and Brad Scuzzarella (Lynn Classical), will also be honored.
Around and About
The Greater Lowell United FC, a men’s soccer team established in August 2013 that plays in the National Premier Soccer League, begins its preseason Sunday. Home games will be at Cawley Stadium in Lowell and Veterans Memorial Stadium in Lawrence. For more info, visit www.glufc.com. . . .
The Northern Essex Community College Alumni Association will host its first golf tournament on June 23 at Haverhill’s Renaissance Golf Club. It is open to all golfers, not just NECC alumni. For more information or to register, visit www.necc.mass.edu/alumni. . .
The North Shore United’s U11 girls’ soccer team, currently ranked third in Massachusetts, recently captured the U11A bracket championship at the 2014 Seacoast United Premier Invitational Tournament in Epping, N.H.Paul Lazdowski can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @plazdow.