WEST DES MOINES — Eighty-seven days after the fifth metatarsal in his right foot cracked, Georges Niang made his quasi-return to a basketball court.
It wasn't Hilton Coliseum, though a good number of Iowa State fans showed up to Valley Southwoods High to cheer on Niang and the other Cyclones featured in the YMCA Capital City league.
The quality of the competition — on Sunday night it was the Walnut Creek YMCA team, led by ISU transfer Jameel McKay — well, it wasn't Kansas.
But it was basketball, and it was even winning basketball for Niang and the Renaissance Granite & Quartz hoopsters, and the rising junior is grateful for that, especially after there was chatter earlier in the week he wouldn't be lacing 'em up.
"I was just come out here and show appreciation for the fans and all they've done during basketball season," said Niang, who scored 29 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. "It's been a long time coming.
"We came to an agreement. Iowa State, there's some things they let go, and I was fully cleared and talked to all my doctors and they said it wasn't any risk at all for me to play. … It wasn't me going against anybody at all. We all sat down and had a meeting before this whole extravaganza. I'm just happy they're letting me play and we came to a mutual agreement."
"You can't put diesel fuel into a regular car," — Niang
Spectators caught their breath at the 4:08 mark as Niang came began limping following a layup attempt, but he said afterward it was fine.
"I just caught a charlie-horse," he said. "It wasn't anything too crazy. Everyday stuff that happens in a basketball game."
It took Niang until the 13:51 mark in the first half to score his first points of the summer, a hard drive on McKay from the right wing, a layup shot-putted up and in. A few minutes later, Niang struck with a baby-hook.
From then on, it was vintage Niang, who shot-faked, put the ball between his legs, ran the floor and tried a variety of post moves, including a new-ish looking one, far off the right block, in which he palmed the ball with his left hand, quickly swooped it around his body and pivoted over his right shoulder for a leaning attempt.
The hallmark Niang trash talk was there, too.
As an opposing player lined up a looooonnnggg three-pointer: "Oh yeah, that's what we want!"
While debating an erroneous inbounds ruling: "I've been gone but I haven't been gone that long."
If there was one thing missing from Niang's game, it was his weight. He played about 35 of the possible 40 minutes and at times had to suck for air, but he jumped well and looked trim.
"I've lost 20 pounds," Niang said. "I'm still working to get my body fit and stuff like that, so I don't see myself done. It's more like a lifestyle change than a quick fix. I'm working on eating healthy. The guys back home told me your body is a Temple. You can't put diesel fuel into a regular car. You've got to put good stuff in your body and good stuff will come out of it."
Added McKay, "He's slimmer, more athletic and can finish above the rim now, so I'm not worried about Georges. He's improving his body every day, working as hard as he can."
McKay Talks Appeal, Puts on Show
Making his much-anticipated public debut since transferring from Marquette to Iowa State last fall, Jameel McKay had a case of the butterflies.
"I was actually pretty nervous because this is my first time playing in a game," said McKay, who scored 20 points, notched 14 rebounds and blocked two shots for Walnut Creek YMCA in his first Cap City league appearance. "I sat out last year and I haven't' played in such a long time, so I was just happy to be seeing some referees, even though I couldn't get a call. I felt a little rusty but I was just happy to be playing."
Not having left Marquette since the fall session was underway, McKay is at this point not eligible to suit up for the Cyclones until January. The lanky 6-foot-9 junior, a Milwaukee native, has filed to the NCAA a hardship waiver, which if granted would make him eligible immediately.
ISU junior Jameel McKay
McKay isn't getting his hopes up because of the fickle nature of the NCAA, but says he has a strong claim for a successful appeal, that he left Marquette for reasons other than playing time and style of play, the reasons he gave to reporters for his exit last fall.
"A lot of people don't know about the case," McKay said. "The reason for transferring, I never actually did an interview, and it's not actually what everyone thinks. It's actually deeper than what everyone thinks. It wasn't about basketball. The style of play is why I chose here. But when I transferred from there, it was no basketball-related issues. I never did an interview about it."
When asked to get into further detail, McKay said, "I don't know if I can get that deep, I don't know what the legal rule is. … There's a better chance than what people think but you never know. Right now my mind is that I won't be playing until December. I won't get my hopes up."
Whenever he plays, McKay brings much-needed rim protection to the Cyclones.
"I think he was a real talent," said Georges Niang, who faced McKay on Sunday. "I think people are gonna really like him, he'll help us a lot, especially blocking shots around the rim, and he's real athletic. He's gonna be our real true shot blocker an he's gonna really help us this year."
McKay made the highlight play of the evening, crashing to the hoop on his own missed three-pointer, snaring the ball above the rim and finishing with a two-handed dunk.
"I was telling them right before half I'd do something like that because Georges wanted to play defense and I couldn't get any dunks," McKay said. "I felt strong. We've been lifting weights and the balls, I'm palming them, so I was really throwing it. Once I knew it was off, I knew I was going to get the outback. [Niang] can't get that high."
A springy, max-energy guy in the ilk of former Indian Hills C.C. teammate Dustin Hogue, McKay has good handles and is a willing shooter from distance. At least Sunday, he tried after most every rebound and showed a knack for timing and playing balls off the rim. His first jump is great — the second jump that follows is just as impressive.
McKay, a skinny 210-pounder, says he's gotten stronger thanks to Iowa State's diligent weight-training program and has increased his lift maxes.
Bonus: Kourtlin Jackson three-pointer
Notes: Oregon State Transfer Hallice Cooke is en route to Ames … he will play in the Cap City league this summer; Bryce Dejean-Jones, the UNLV transfer, is finishing up classes and has the Kevin Durant camp in late-June … Dejean-Jones will arrive in mid-July, his father told AllCyclones.com; ISU sophomore Matt Thomas did not play, a day after being arrested for OWI.