Ejim and Niang: foes to friends


Tiffany Herring/Iowa State Daily

Sophomore Georges Niang talks to Senior Melvin Ejim during a timeout versus No. 23 Oklahoma on Feb. 1 at Hilton Coliseum. The duo had a combined 49 of Iowa State’s 81 points. The Cyclones beat the Sooners 81-75.

Dean Berhow-Goll

The newly-donned Big 12 Player of the Year Melvin Ejim stood on the court at the Sukup Practice Complex waiting for his teammate Georges Niang to join him after grabbing a ball off the rack.

The pair of friends, who in the past two seasons have formed an inseparable bond on and off the court, in fact, used to hate each other’s guts.


A much younger and less-developed Niang — in both physical ability and skill — had just scored a layup before halftime in the latest rivalry game between Niang’s Tilton School and the highly touted Brewster Academy.

“Iowa State? Who could ever go there?” Niang screamed at Brewster’s senior forward Ejim. “They’re terrible!”

On the way back down the court, Niang caught a “friendly” elbow from Ejim, who let him know the comment wasn’t appreciated while firing back a little heat of his own.

“I was just like, ‘Where are you committed to,'” Ejim said. “And he couldn’t say anything because at that point he didn’t really get a lot of interest.”

Niang hadn’t received much interest yet as a sophomore and hadn’t even been offered a scholarship yet. Brewster went on to the win that game 110-70, although Niang recalls it being closer to a 20-point game.

Then a year later, during Ejim’s freshman campaign at Iowa State, ISU coach Fred Hoiberg’s car pulled up to Seasons with a familiar face sitting in the passenger seat.

That’s when Niang peered out of the car to see Ejim, who was trying to get a glance at him, too.

“I saw him and I was like, ‘Ah man, I hate this kid,'” Ejim said.

Niang said Hoiberg flagged down Ejim to come say hello to the newest visitor to the ISU campus and potentially a new teammate in two years’ time.

“I had my Tilton basketball sweatshirt on. Coach Hoiberg and me were driving to Seasons, and I saw Melvin look in the car and gave me the look,” Niang said laughing, three years later.

From there, they both admitted they’ve gotten over the clashes they had in high school and have become great friends even when they aren’t counting on each other battling Big 12 foes, like they will at the Big 12 Championship starting at 11:30 a.m. March 13 against Kansas State.

Niang is happy for Ejim’s recent awards he’s won, being named the Big 12 Player of the Year and Third Team All-America on Monday. Niang also received an accolade as All-Big 12 Third Team.

The debate between the two still is alive as ever. After Ejim’s Brewster Academy recently won another NEPSAC league title, the two took to Twitter debating about who would beat each other if they ever had the chance to play each other again.

Instead, for now, they’ll have to settle for starting on the same team and playing alongside each other.

“That was just a little funny joke that we have, especially since he ended up coming here,” Ejim said. “And you know, they’d end up losing to [Brewster] like they always do, so I always have bragging rights over him.”