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October 11, 2012

High expectations for shooting guard Nik Stauskas

He's already been called one of the best shooters in Michigan basketball history based on potential, and freshman shooting guard Nik Stauskas hasn't disappointed in the early going. Even though he's only done it in practice, Stauskas has shown the same uncanny knack for knocking down shots many saw on his homemade YouTube clips.

In those, the Canadian transplant made ridiculous amounts while shooting with snow on the ground and a portable heater shooting warm air at him from the back porch.

"He's a gym rat," fellow frosh and roommate Spike Albrecht said with a laugh. "We do our 50 in 5 drill and he makes over 70 every time like it's nothing."

For comparison's sake, Albrecht - a good shooter himself - has maxed at 55.

Confidence has never been an issue for the 6-6, 205-pound Stauskas, and it remains a strength.

"I've been playing against a lot of high level guys for a while," he said. "Obviously, guys like Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway are super elite players, but over my high school career I've gotten used to playing high level guys. We're trying to win a lot of games here, so it's been super competitive in practice, but that's something I like. We're going to get better by pushing each other, going against each other.

"The coaches and all the veterans, they've been doing everything they can to help us in the transition. It's been very easy to fit right in with these guys. Things are a little sped up here and guys are a lot stronger. It's not going to be the same, but I want to keep working so it gets to that point where I can do the same things I did in high school."

Stauskas downplays his achievement in the 50 in five drill, not certain if his 78 shots made (in 85 attempts) is a record. Nor is he concerned about it. He has acclimated well with his teammates and loves getting the occasional shout-out on campus when a fellow student expresses excitement for the upcoming season.

He's more excited to talk about his teammates, though, and he loves what he's seen.

"The only surprise is Caris LeVert," he said of the 6-6 frosh. "I had heard nothing about him coming in here so I had no idea what his game was like, but he's a heck of a player. He can really play. He's a scorer. He can put the ball on the floor, shoot, pass and he's super shifty. We compare him to Jamal Crawford. You'd better watch out for him."

Stauskas knows Crawford's game well, having studied him over the years.

"That's why I'm wearing No. 11," he said.

Freshman big man Mitch McGary, meanwhile, is every bit the comedian advertised.

"It's perfectly normal to say Mitch is crazy," Stauskas said with a smile. "But he's a heck of a player. His hustle on the court is unbelievable. Thats' something that's definitely going to help us out.

"He's definitely the leader of the freshmen. The energy he brings to the court not only gets the freshmen going, but the veterans, too. Sometimes you see them look at each other like, 'is this guy serious?' That's the kind of energy he brings."

Like his teammates, Stauskas is aware of the high expectations and doesn't' shy away. He knows he has to defend to see the court, and that's the aspect of his game on which he's working.

"It's tough to live up to expectations when you're talking about Final Fours and Big Ten championships, but those are the goals," he said. " We're just trying to get better every day, stay humble and come here every day to work our hardest."

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