NBA Draft: Nik Stauskas proving he's more than just a shooter

NBA Draft: Nik Stauskas proving he's more than just a shooter
June 4, 2014, 8:00 am
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Mark Strotman

Before Nik Stauskas won Big Ten Player of the Year, before he was named a second-team All-American, before he helped the Michigan Wolverines to 59 wins and a Final Four in his two seasons with the Wolverines, there were the YouTube videos.

After committing to John Beilein and the Wolverines as a junior at St. Mark's in Massachusetts, the 6-foot-6 wing took the Internet by storm after posting a video to YouTube of him, shooting on his backyard court, knocking down a remarkable 102 3-pointers in five minutes. Two days later he posted another video of himself making 73 3-pointers in five minutes with just one ball (he accomplished the first feat with a pair of basketballs).

Before he ever stepped foot on campus in Ann Arbor, Stauskas held the rightful description as a deadly marksman on the court.

Nearly three years later he still admits he can shoot it with the best of his fellow draft class hopefuls, but he's out to prove that he's more than just a sharpshooter.

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"With my ball handling and playing pick and rolls, I can immediately be a guy that can stretch the floor and make shots. That's something I've always been able to do," Stauskas said at last month's NBA Combine. "But I think teams are going to be surprised when I have the ball in my hands and they put me in ball screens, they're going to be surprised at the plays I can make for myself and others. I feel like I'm a guy with a high IQ and I really like to make the right play out there."

In two seasons with the Wolverines, Stauskas took his backyard sharpshooting and translated it into terrorizing the Big Ten, making better than 44 percent of his 3-pointers while taking more than five triples per game. He made a triple in all but nine of his 75 games in two seasons, including a 6-for-6 effort last year in the Elite Eight against Florida to help propel Michigan to the Final Four, where they defeated Syracuse before falling to Louisville in the national championship game.

And while all his numbers were up in his sophomore season, including his outside shooting, his biggest improvement, at least in terms of NBA value, came in the passing department. While deferring to national player of the year Trey Burke as a freshman, Stauskas was a primary ball handler last season and averaged 3.3 assists. He was also stellar in pick-and-roll action; per Synergy Sports, he averaged 0.95 points per possession in such scenarios, and he ranked in the 95th percentile nationally in points per possession + assists, proving he'll be able to handle the ball at the next level.

And though his childhood role models in the NBA were Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant and Vince Carter, the Ontario native realized at an early age he wasn't going to have those particular skill sets (though he did record a 35 1/2-inch vertical at the Combine). Instead, he looked to a couple of players who he believes he can emulate in the NBA.

"My whole life I grew up watching the NBA as a fan and over the course of this year I've started watching the game, just picturing myself in there and comparing myself to other players, seeing what they're doing," he said. "Over the last couple years I've really started to like Golden State and I watch a lot of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, and those are two guys that if I could model my game after those two a little bit, that'd be great."

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Curry, in five seasons, has gone from a pure shooter at Davidson to a point guard who averaged 8.5 assists per game this past season. Stauskas won't play the point at the next level, but Curry's transformation is something he hopes to undergo as well.

He'll likely hear his name called sometime in the late lottery or mid-first round - at the time of the Combine he had a dozen interviews lined up - but for Stauskas, his own motivation to succeed and love of the game will be what turns him from a backyard YouTube sensation into a versatile NBA player.

"I'm not doing this because I want money or anything like that," he said. "Obviously the money's great, but I'm really doing this just because I love the game of basketball and this is what's made me happy since I was 7 or 8 years old."