January 16, 2014 at 1:00 am

Terry Foster

Nik Stauskas' improved all-around game is boost for Michigan

Ann Arbor — Nik Stauskas remains the Canadian gunner. That is something that will never change.

However, there is much more to his game than launching 3-point shots. He is now Michigan’s most dangerous man on the floor because of his versatility.

Glenn Robinson III has a bigger name, injured Mitch McGary has more fame, but Stauskas has more game because there are so many parts to his game. He is a better rebounder than a year ago. He uses his height (6-foot-6) to see over defenses and find open men, and that 3-point threat allows him to disappear behind defenses for back-door cuts.

Opponents fear Stauskas because his shooting remains a dangerous weapon. And when they try to overplay his 3-point shot Stauskas disappears like a ghost and the next thing you know he is running the baseline for an easy feed from a teammate.

“Anything I can do to help this team win,” he said. “I’ve said before, whether it is passing, whether it is rebounding, if I can do everything that is great.”

Maybe he doesn’t defend the post well, but he sure tries.

Statistical evidence

Stauskas’ game was on full display during Michigan’s 80-67 victory over Penn State Tuesday night at Crisler Arena. He filled up the stat sheet nicely with 21 points, six rebounds and five assists. One night this guy is going to get into a zone and hit a rare triple double.

Here is proof that the new Stauskas is emerging into a future All-Big Ten player and royal pain to opponents: He is averaging nearly seven points more than last season (from 11.0 to 17.7). He has nearly tripled his number of assists (1.3 to 3.7) and his rebounds are slightly ahead (3.6 per game).

Much of this is set up by his 45.1-percent shooting from behind the arc. Most of America can’t even hit the rim that many times.

“He’s got that great combination,” coach John Beilein said. “He can’t just shoot, he can really shoot. Now he drives and passes. He can really play the guard position because of his height. Nik is a really good driver. He is good for us.”

The dude is great. You can see his mind working now. He is setting up guys, looking for every edge. A year ago he mostly spotted up, sat and shot. Now you don’t know what he’ll do.

“The mental side of the game has really helped me,” he said. “I think I’ve never gotten too high or never too low no matter what happens and that kind of keeps me levelheaded the whole game.”

Revealing stretch

He is more of a thinker. Last season teammates sometimes made fun of his defense and desire. They demanded more and now Stauskas is barking at guys when they slack off.

“Obviously he is more aggressive,” Robinson III said. “The team needs him to step up and he has been doing a great job of that. A lot of teams don’t think he can drive. He is doing a great job of proving that he can. And I think his defense has really stepped up.”

Let’s look at the bigger picture. Michigan (12-4, 4-0 in the Big Ten) is in good shape early in the Big Ten race. But we get to know how serious this team is over the next couple of week with games at Wisconsin Saturday and Michigan State the following Saturday, along with a tough home game against Iowa. All are ranked and have visions of a Big Ten title.

Michigan must play these games without McGary following his back surgery. The Wolverines can only get through these games intact if Stauskas remains the most dangerous man on the floor. He not only must score but must pick up some of the ballhandling duties if freshman Derrick Walton Jr. wilts.

“We got some big games coming up,” Stauskas said. “We are excited to see where we stack up.”


Opponents fear Michigan's Nik Stauskas because his shooting remains a dangerous weapon. / Steve Perez / Detroit News
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