Make no mistake, Nik Stauskas is a shooter. Search his name on YouTube and check out the insane displays he put on in his backyard. He once hit 45 out of 50 from beyond the arc. He shot 44% from three-point land last year, and has maintained that average this year while improving his two-point percentage.
Nik Stauskas still has swagger. His signature move is still the “three goggles.” He throws them up less this year, mature enough to know when to rile up the crowd. There’s no more mouthing “I’m back” after going through a slump, because there is no slump this year.
Nik Stauskas possessed the ability to dribble last year, and any diehard Michigan fan could point out several instances of the Canadian creating off the pick-and-roll.
Perhaps he wasn’t known well-enough last year. Maybe people only saw him stand in the corner and hit three after three against Florida. Maybe that’s why announcers still tell us “he’s not just a shooter.” Michigan fans knew that last year.
What Michigan fans couldn’t know was how much Stauskas would improve over the summer. He stayed in Ann Arbor and worked day and night to improve his ball handling and to increase his weight.
If you look on his YouTube page, there is a new video called “Nik Stauskas showing his bounce!” Not just a shooter, indeed.
The fans don’t know if John Beilein told Stauskas he would be the go to guy, or if Stauskas took that role upon himself. Either way, he has taken it upon himself to step into the roles of both Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. Stauskas is now the leader in taking shots and shot creation, seeing his assists per game double and he is now scoring 16.9 points per game.
Stauskas has improved so much that he is now the center of opposing coaches’ game plans, and every team will throw its best defensive player at the kid from Mississauga. ESPN Analysts like Eamonn Brennan are writing whole articles about the Indiana Hoosier’s defense of Stauskas. He has arrived on the national scene, and his presence is felt. Indiana might have held the sophomore to one of his worst games, but he is too good a player with too good a coach to continue to be shut out.
Stauskas is always looking to improve. In the press conference after the game against Purdue, Stauskas noted his turnovers and said this would be not be an issue in his next game.
NBA scouts have taken notice. He has been projected as high as the 12th pick, and Sports Illustrated ran an article about his ascension on the draft board. Stauskas’ dad even mentioned that he and his son had taken notice of the scouts at every game. Stauskas insists that all he is focused on is Michigan basketball, and his stats reflect that.
The Wolverines are on top of the Big Ten and are currently 18-6. Joe Lunardi recently placed Michigan as a three seed in his latest Bracketology rankings. Stauskas and crew have had a taste of the Final Four, and would like nothing more to go back.
Stauskas knows how to respond to adversity, and after the loss to Arizona, his response was indicative of the Wolverines this season. When asked how they would respond to the loss, Stauskas said, “we know what we need to do.” His response has been evident in the Wolverines games since then. Michigan basketball didn’t decline after the loss of two first round draft picks, and a major reason is Stauskas.
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