The Michigan Wolverines are likely headed for a 2 or 3-seed in the NCAA tournament. Their starting small forward is Nik Stauskas, a native of Etobicoke, Ontario. He was kind enough to give us a few minutes of his time…
Oliver Macklem: We are very pleased to be joined by Nik Stauskas of the Michigan Wolverines. Before we talk about your season Nik, I have to ask you about this YouTube video you released a few weeks ago. It’s you in your back yard canning three-pointers and you made 45/50. Was that the best shooting performance you’ve ever had?
Nik Stauskas: No it actually isn’t. I’ve had a few better than that but I was having a good day that day so it all worked out good for me.
OM: I want to talk about a couple players on your team – Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke. Two tremendous talents. For you joining this squad as a freshman, how big of an adjustment was it playing with two guys who are very ball-dominant?
NS: I didn’t really have to adjust my game, just because my whole career I’ve played with really good players. I know how to play off certain people. Obviously, it took the whole summer of playing with them just to get the chemistry going and stuff like that. But I really enjoy playing with them and like you said, they’re two really good players and I’ve learned a lot from them in practice and games, and I feel like I’ve done a really good job so far, of getting along with them.
OM: And a lot of people only view you as a spot-up shooter playing off those guys, but there’s a lot more to your game that has evolved over the course of this season. Can you talk about how you’ve developed other aspects of your game, because we know you’re a knock-down shooter.
NS: Yah that’s something I’ve always worked on, is just getting to the basket and doing other things. Because I know other teams are going to clue in on me and the fact that I can shoot the ball really well. They’re going to close out on me really hard or deny me the ball, so I’m going to have to other things to get myself involved. Just working on my ball-handling and my athleticism and just getting to the rim is something I’ve taken pride in the last couple years. Hopefully I can still keep improving and get better.
OM: Michigan didn’t earn a bye in the first round of the Big 10 tournament. Is that something you guys talked about and used as added motivation because a couple months ago you were the top team in the nation?
NS: Yah it’s crazy because we’re ranked 6th in the country but we have a 5-seed for the Big 10 tournament. It’s tough and obviously, we would have wanted to get a bye but unfortunately it didn’t work out. We needed to win our last game against Indiana and we couldn’t do that. At the end of the day, we still got to work just as hard to win that first game against Penn State on Thursday for the Big 10 tournament but I’m sure we’ll be OK.
OM: It definitely speaks to the strength of the Big 10. Heading into the NCAA tournament what are the expectations for the Wolverines? Is it national championship or bust?
NS: At this point, our expectations are to win a National Championship and we know we’re capable of beating any team in the country. We’ve proven ourselves. I think the main thing is if we continue to defend and continue rebound, we’ll be OK. Because offensively we do a pretty good job of getting everyone involved and keeping that offense going so I think it’s all going to come down to our effort on defence and rebounding. If we can do that, the sky’s the limit.