Former Michigan guard Nik Stauskas has improved each year since arriving in Ann Arbor as a somewhat unheralded freshman. As Canadian players went, Stauskas wasn’t well known, outside of a few YouTube clips of him shooting baskets in his backyard with his father.
But Stauskas made a name for himself as a freshman, helping UM to the NCAA Tournament title game with his outside shooting. As a sophomore, he increased his profile by diversifying his game with strong drives and finishes at the basket. After being selected Big Ten player of the year, Stauskas helped the Wolverines to the Elite Eight this season and declared for the NBA draft after his sophomore season.
On Thursday night, Stauskas’ ascent reached a new peak, when he was selected eighth overall by the Sacramento Kings in the NBA draft. He was projected to be taken in the first half of the first round, but he wasn’t sure he’d go as high as No. 8.
“I knew coming in that Sacramento was a possibility and they felt strongly about me,” Stauskas said. “To be honest, I feel like I bring a skill set that not many people have and is needed in the NBA.”
After his name was announced, Stauskas had an elaborate rehearsed handshake with his father Paul — an homage to his gestures after making 3-pointers during his Michigan career.
“That’s just me and my dad having fun; I have a really special relationship with him. I’m really excited I got to share that moment with him,” Stauskas said on a conference call late Thursday night. “(Wednesday night) we planned to do something funny. The 3-goggles is something I’ve done throughout my career at Michigan and fans seemed to like it, so I decided we would do it.”
Stauskas said the Kings fans can get used to seeing the gestures a lot more if he’s able to translate his skill set from college to the NBA. He shot 44 percent on 3-pointers as a sophomore and became adept at the pick-and-roll, which will make him a dual threat in the Kings offense, paired with big man DeMarcus Cousins.
“We talked about acquiring a talent and acquiring floor spacers and passers and guys who can handle the ball,” Kings general manager Pete D’Alessandro said. “I think we got all three of those things in Nik Stauskas; we’re thrilled to have him here.”
The Kings had a dearth of 3-point shooting last season, ranking among the worst teams in the NBA at 33 percent. Getting Stauskas addresses that issue immediately.
“We’re delighted with the pick of Nik Stauskas. Last year, we had a 3-point-shooting contest at training camp and (former NBA player and Kings adviser) Chris Mullin beat everybody,” Kings owner Vivek Ranadive said. “I wanted to make sure it didn’t happen again. Hopefully with Nik Stauskas, it’s going to be different.”
One of the biggest areas of improvement will need to be Stauskas’ defense, which he readily acknowledges.
“I can improve defensively and I can also improve my body and putting on more strength and speed. I’m only 20 years and I haven’t grown into my body yet, so that will come,” Stauskas said. “Defensively, I think I can be a capable defender at the next level and I know I’m going to have to put in a lot of work and effort. That’s been the case my whole career and I made the necessary strides all the time.”