SALT LAKE CITY — Former Iowa State star Georges Niang was recognized as the nation’s top power forward in 2016 with the prestigious Karl Malone Award.
Two years later, the 24-year-old, two-way forward made his Utah Jazz debut in the Mailman’s old stomping grounds. Isn’t life crazy?
“It’s funny. I’m back in his domain,” Niang said. “It’s fitting.”
Niang was made available for the Jazz’s 129-99 victory against the defending champion Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night. He only checked in for the final 1:05 but was able to log a steal and compete against some familiar faces.
“I think I’m pretty familiar with the Warriors,” Niang said. “I went to training camp with them so everything seems familiar on what the coaches are talking about tonight so I’m excited for the opportunity.”
Prior to signing his two-way deal in Utah, Niang starred for the Santa Cruz Warriors, Golden State’s G-League affiliate. He inked the deal just one day after the Jazz waived his former ISU teammate Naz Mitrou-Long but the college buddies remain close and still play together for the Salt Lake City Stars.
“He was great. Obviously, it’s bigger than basketball between me and (Naz) so we didn’t skip a beat,” Niang said. “It was like we had just left college together so it was awesome getting back with him and him welcoming me to the organization.”
With Niang being so new to the organization and city, he’s still finding his way around town. What he does appreciate is the scenery and the ability to lock in with minimal distractions.
“It’s been great,” Niang said. “Obviously, there’s so much to look at with the mountains out here and I just think it’s a nice slow-paced area, which allows you to focus on yourself and take in the beauty of the scenery.”
The Indiana Pacers originally drafted the two-time college All-American with the 50th pick of the 2016 NBA Draft but waived him after his rookie season. For the Santa Cruz Warriors, Niang put up 18.4 points, 6.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists in 26 games. In five Stars games, the 6-foot-8 230 pound forward is averaging 18.8 points and 6.4 rebounds on 62.5 percent shooting and 57.9 percent from beyond the arc.
For those that don’t know Niang, he’s an unselfish guy. His mindset is staying positive as he waits for an opportunity to showcase his talent. Ego won’t be an issue.
“I think the way I play with getting guys involved and being able to pass out of the big man spot and space the floor with my shooting, I think that all helps,” Niang said. “I’m someone that comes out and gives it their all every night. I’m a fierce competitor and someone that can get their teammates involved.”