This article originally appeared in the the Nov. 9, 2015, issue of Sports Illustrated. Subscribe to the magazine here.
When Murray State coach Steve Prohm agreed to replace Fred Hoiberg at Iowa State in June, the first player he planned to contact was 6' 8" senior forward Georges Niang—but Niang got Prohm’s number first and beat him to the text.
Becoming a more proactive leader was Niang’s main focus this off-season. A year after dropping about 25 pounds and cutting his body-fat percentage in half, Niang decided to exercise his mind as well. Each morning last summer, before hitting the weight room or the practice court, he sat in bed and read a chapter of The Energy Bus, a motivational book by Jon Gordon. “The first lesson is that you’re in control of the energy on your bus,” Niang says. “Positive energy drives whatever bus you’re leading.”
Prohm’s goals for Niang reflect what the coach wants from his team: improved rebounding and defense. Last season the Cyclones were outside the top 100 in defensive rebounding percentage and in three-point D. A career 14.7-points-per-game scorer, Niang is productive in the post, but his offensive rating was below 90 in 12 games last season and above 130 in six. Hoping for a smoother final season, he’s bearing the Bus’s final principle in mind: “Have fun and enjoy the ride.”
Monte Morris, 6'3" junior guard
Morris may be the best pass-first point guard in college basketball; his 4.6-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio led the NCAA in ’14-15. He must now seamlessly implement Steve Prohm’s scheme on a squad packed with veterans.
“Hopefully offensively we play with the same deal of flow, spacing, confidence and space, sharing the basketball like they’ve done in the past here. Those are the things Fred stressed and that I stressed at Murray State. Defensively, hopefully we can defend the three-point line better, and I hope we can rebound the ball better and put more stops together consistently. I think we have a good chance to complete for the Big 12 title and make a run in March and April, but we’ve got a lot to accomplish before we get there.” — Steve Prohm
Projected depth chart