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May 21, 2014

Nik Stauskas emerging as a lottery pick

Memphis, Toronto, Milwaukee, Boston, Golden State and San Antonio - those are only a few of the teams former Michigan guard Nik Stauskas has interviewed with in preparation for the June 26, 2014 NBA Draft, and many others have shown interest. Many now believe Stauskas will be a lottery pick after an impressive showing at the draft combine in Chicago recently.

"I think part of it depended on if there were any surprises with the lottery," The Sporting News' Sean Deveney said of Stauskas' draft status. "You have the teams 11-14 with very small odds of moving up, but if they do, they could affect his draft spot … probably more in the 9-14 range is more realistic for him."

Sacramento dropped to No. 8 when Cleveland stole the No. 1 pick, moving Detroit out of the first round due to a past trade. The Kings were another who interviewed him, though, and Stauskas apparently made a good impression with the club.

The weeding out process has been much more rigorous than expected, Paul Stauskas, Nik's father, said recently.

"He didn't participate in the drills so there was no pressure to perform, so it was three hours or four hours a day interviewing with teams, each for about a half hour," he said. "They might send him for an MRI of his knee or shoulder, this and that.

"You'd be surprised the homework they've done on individual players. They'll phone his high school coach, his AAU coaches, do their Internet homework. If ever an article came out, like when Nik was out a couple games with an ankle injury, they know about that. They might take an x-ray of it just to make sure."

Stauskas, though, is in great health, and he proved it with his outstanding, Big Ten MVP season capped by a great showing in the NCAA Tournament. He posted one of the highest body fat percentages among measured prospects, but scouts weren't concerned, only excited about how much quicker he'd be if he dropped it a few percentage points. His 6-6 height (in shoes) was also intriguing, while some teams mentioned they thought he could help out at point guard in a pinch.

That alone could help him move up a few more spots. The YouTube videos of his ball handling have made the rounds as much as his unbelievable shooting clips.

"He's said that in a number of interviews, that he grew up being a point guard," Paul Stauskas said. "He's really developed his ball handling, and he's always been a good passer. People have asked, 'where did that come from?' There's a long, long history of him being a point guard. He only became a shooting guard once he hit the U.S. or shortly before that. Then he grew.

"It didn't surprise us with Nik, because we've seen that anything he puts his mind to, especially when it comes to basketball, he makes it happen. Is ever going to be Chris Paul? No. But a serviceable option at point guard, fill in for five minutes and handle it - no problem."

He led U-M in assists in conference games with 64, and managed 2.3 assists per game overall. As confident as they come, he also impressed with his unselfishness and "team first" attitude that helped propel the Wolverines to a Big Ten title, a National Championship game appearance and an Elite Eight in his two years.

"Really, all the stars aligned for Nik, and we're still shaking our heads at how fortunate he was for all the tings to happen in sequence the way they did for him," Paul Stauskas said. "All the way back to his time in high school in U.S. where his first year didn't work out [at South Kent in Mass.], but because he played in a tournament in the U.S. the year before, the coach at [Southborough, Mass.] St. Mark's saw him and loved him … they took him right away.

"There he was on a stage with Alex Murphy [who signed with Duke], other local superstars. When they had open gym, all of the big name coaches came to this little gym in the middle of nowhere in Southborough, Massachusetts that seated like 300. Nik demolished it."

Michigan - and John Beilein's offense - turned out to be the perfect fit. Kansas and others started showing serious interest, but Beilein won them over when he refused to guarantee playing time, but promised Stauskas would be on the floor if he were the best option.

He quickly became that, proving himself as one of the best pure shooters in Michigan history, and he leaves having secured his legacy as one of U-M's finest. Now it's about making the most of his opportunity at the next level, and those who know him understand he probably will.

"There are two other guards he's competing with," Deveney said. [MSU's] Gary Harris did not measure well at all. He was 6-2 , which translates to 6-4 with shoes, and [Kentucky's] James Young, who was 6-5 without shoes. That's Stauskas' competition in terms of where he lands. If he is viewed as some teams ahead of those guys then he could be top 10, but I don't think that's a settled question. It's pretty even between all three of those guys."

Should he emerge as an obvious lottery pick, his family will join him in New York for the draft. If he doesn't, he'll have a small party in Mississauga, Ont. (Canada) with family. Either way, he's headed for a long and fruitful, well-earned NBA career.




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