Nik Stauskas has gotten used to taking on new challenges in unfamiliar settings. When the administrative issues threatened the basketball program at Mississauga’s Loyola Catholic Secondary School, the sophomore made the decision to play prep ball in the States and transferred to South Kent School in Connecticut. Stauskas was unhappy and when a hip injury derailed his junior season, he chose to transfer to St. Mark’s Prep for his senior year, located 40 km outside of Boston.
The move to Massachusetts suited him well; under the tutelage of Coach David Lubick, Stauskas really caught his stride. In his senior year, he averaged 20 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists in leading St. Mark’s to a 28-2 overall record. The Lions finished with a 16-0 record in league play. They eventually would become the Class AA champions behind 19 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocks from Stauskas in the championship game against a Tilton squad anchored by 2013 NBA first-round pick Nerlens Noel.
Stauskas’ play earned him nationwide attention from NCAA D1 heavyweights like Villanova, Georgia, Notre Dame and Florida (among others). The decision to sign with Michigan was largely facilitated by Coach Lubick and his friendship with Michigan head coach, John Beilein; but Stauskas also credits the rabid fan support, opportunities for national exposure, and most importantly, the relative close proximity between Michigan and Toronto as being major factors that affected his decision.
In his first season at Michigan, Stauskas excelled, averaging 11.0 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 30.5 minutes per game, highlighted by a 22-point performance against #3 Florida in the Elite 8 in which he shot a perfect 6-for-6 from three-point range. These numbers are all that more impressive after considering the enormous roles Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. (both 2013 NBA first-round picks) played on the team. Nik’s versatility impressed Wolverines fans so much that the Maize Rage section of Crisler Arena began waving maize and blue Canadian flags in his honour.
In his sophomore season, Nik has been asked to take on a bigger role with the team following the loss of Burke and Hardaway Jr. to the draft. In anticipation of the increased minutes, Stauskas spent the offseason focused on increasing his strength and athleticism – adding 16 lbs. of muscle and six inches on his vert. Unlike last season, when he admits to feeling “clueless,” Stauskas expects to be more comfortable, particularly after a deep run to the Final Four in the NCAA tournament.
Expectations from the coaching staff are high this season as well, and the talented guard has already been slotted into the starting 2-guard spot. Stauskas scored nine points in 25 minutes of action in Michigan’s season opener against Mass Lowell and followed that by dropping 23 points, 6 boards and 5 assists (6-7 FG, 5-6 3Pt). Coach Beilein expects to see consistent improvement from Stauskas, “He’s getting to the areas he needs to get to…He’s learning to play through that contact, which is such a big part of college basketball…He has a unique skill set that he can really shoot and his handle is really good. Now he’s trying to pick and choose his spots.
Arriving at camp this year weighing 208 lbs., Nik is confident in his own skill as well as what he believes to be a very talented Michigan squad, the one he expects will be just as successful as the 2013 team that reached the final four. As for his future plans, Stauskas is not shy about his desire to don the red and white to play with the bevy of young, upcoming talent on Canada’s national squad, hopefully in time for the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio.
Whether or not Nik has given any thought to his future NBA draft stock, he does admit that he had exceptional role models in Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. at Michigan last season, two players he credits as being the “best basketball players [he’s] ever played with.”
Nik Stauskas’ sophomore season at Michigan should be exciting with the productive two guard projecting to put up big numbers as he tries to lead the Wolverines back to the Dance.