After the loss in the national championship game last year, Michigan basketball guard Nik Stauskas was visibly upset. Who wouldn’t be? Despite probably wanting to be alone, he had to address the media.
He likely longed to be away from the cameras and the microphones. Yet he had to answer their questions. It’s one of the things required of a player when he suits up for a Division 1 team.
Stauskas made a promise in his first sentence. “I’ll be right back in the gym tomorrow, working on my game.”
He wasn’t kidding. He stayed in Ann Arbor this summer with teammate Caris LeVert, the two of them working day and night to improve their games.
Stauskas also took his dedication to the weight room, adding 16 pounds of muscle and improving his vertical leap 6 inches. He did all this while maintaining the shooting stroke that had made him such a coveted recruit.
Stauskas’ work has shown on the court this season. He’s averaging 9 more points per game while doubling his assists per game, not to mention improving his shooting percentages.
It’s hard to say Stauskas’ confidence has grown from last year. After all, this was the kid who threw up the “three goggles” and shouted “I’m back” at the Michigan faithful. However, the Canadian Assassin has begun to assert himself late in big games. He has started to develop the clutch gene, something unneeded last year because of Trey Burke.
No one needs to be reminded of Burke’s shot against Kansas. The moment it left his hands, it looked like it would fall. These sort of late game heroics ensured Stauskas didn’t need to be the go to guy.
This year, the Wolverines need a player with Burke-level confidence. They need a player that can bail them out late in the shot clock. They also need someone who can light a fire when down big.
Stauskas has stepped into that role with ease. His huge dunk to bring Michigan within 10 against Florida State University was followed by a huge layup to tie the game with six seconds left. He would continue to hit in overtime, propelling the Wolverines to the Puerto Rico Tip-off Tournament title game.
While Michigan lost in the final to Charlotte, Stauskas’ 20 points did not go unnoticed. As long as his production and late game production don’t waver, Michigan will have a successful season.
Follow me on Twitter @AdamRenuart
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