Friar Basketball

Behind Pair of NE Preps, Iowa State Rolling

Ejim

Iowa State ran through Notre Dame, 76-58, on Friday night behind a pair of New England preps who just happened to be Providence targets before committing to the Cyclones.

When Gerard Coleman and Joseph Young were committing to Providence few were lamenting the loss of Melvin Ejim, a terrific student and outstanding athlete out of Canada who wrapped up his prep career with Brewster Academy.

That Brewster team was loaded.  Many considered Will Barton the best shooting guard in the country, Friar fans are all too familiar with Syracuse forward CJ Fair, one-time PC verbal turned Kansas guard Naadir Tharpe ran the show, while the massive Mo Walker (Minnesota commit), Austin Carroll (Rutgers commit) and Ejim were essential role players.

Ejim certainly had the body and high-level athleticism that the Friars had long lacked on the wing.  6’6, 210 pounds then, he’s now a 6’6, 230 pound junior at Iowa State who plays far bigger than height.  Last night he had 17 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists in the throttling of the Irish, continuing a big time season in which he’s averaged over 11 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.  The next time he grabs double figures in rebounds will the 20th on the year.

Then there’s Georges Niang.  By now, Friar fans don’t need an introduction to him.  By the time Ed Cooley was

Niang is an anchor as a freshman

Niang is an anchor as a freshman

hired at Providence, Iowa State’s rising head coach Fred Hoiberg’s pursuit of Niang was well underway. Hoiberg saw what many didn’t, landing a commitment from Niang in the spring of 2011.  Cooley had Niang in for a visit, but by then the Iowa State love affair was in full bloom, and he cited Hoiberg getting there first as a big reason why.

Niang’s stock exploded that summer playing for BABC, a dominant team featuring the likes of Nerlens Noel, Niang, Goodluck Okonoboh, Wayne Selden and Rene Castro.  By summer’s end Niang was a top 75 recruit.

New England coaches certainly had plenty of time to buy in.  A young Niang was part of a National Prep Title team at Tilton in 2009 – a group that featured then-UConn commits Alex Oriakhi and Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, in addition to Coleman and Niang.

A year later, Coleman was the star, but Niang was the anchor inside for a team that won the NEPSAC Class B title before falling to undefeated Hargrave in the Nationals.

The 2010-11 season was when Niang cemented himself as a high-major Division I player.  He was the veteran presence on a young Tilton team, averaging nearly 25 points and over 8 rebounds per game, while being named the MVP in a NEPSAC AA title winning game over the St. Mark’s trio of Kaleb Tarczewski (Arizona), Alex Murphy (Duke) and Nik Stauskas (Michigan). Niang shot 11-11 on that afternoon and finished his season with a 31 point explosion against Notre Dame Prep at Nationals.

With a commitment to Iowa State in hand, all college recruiters who saw him on a big stage could do was cringe during Niang’s final season – a year that saw him win Player of the Year honors in the NEPSAC Class AA, averaging over 25 points and 7 rebounds and finishing his career with nearly 2,400 points – the most of any player from Massachusetts’s Merrimack Valley region, an area that has produced the likes of Noah Vonleh, Carson Desrosiers and Scott Hazelton.

For those who had watched Niang throughout his prep career it was hard not to feel good for him on Friday night, when he took over the game in the second half, finishing with 19 points and 4 assists on 9-13 shooting from the field.

The question for quite a while in New England circles was whether Niang a high-major player.  In Niang’s first NCAA Tournament game Jim Nantz (who’s called Final Fours since 1991) answered that question for everyone: “this is the type of player you can build a program around.”

Hoiberg’s program is on the rise and a pair of New England preps are a huge reason why.

 

Email Kevin at kevin.farrahar@friarbasketball.com

 

 

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