Nik Stauskas blossomed this season because of opportunity and need, he told ESPN's Scott Van Pelt and Ryan Russillo during a guest spot on their radio show Friday.
"I think I improved a little bit but a lot of it was opportunity," he told them. "My freshman year we had so much talent on that team, and the ball is not going to be in my hands so my role a lot of times was to knock down open shots.
"This year with some of the guys leaving and Mitch [McGary] going down with the back injury, it just gave me an opportunity to step up and have the ball in my hands in late-game situations and at the end of the shot clock. Throughout the year I just got more and more confident and Coach Beilein kept putting the ball in my hands."
Like this step-back triple to secure Michigan's 77-70 win at No. 3 Wisconsin in January.
Stauskas' transformation from third, fourth or even fifth option on the team during the 2012-13 season to Michigan's go-to player this past year has been well-documented, with the sophomore again relaying the story to Van Pelt and Russillo the offseason work he put in last summer that grew his game.
"I just spent a lot of time in the weight room in the offseason to get more explosive and get my upper body stronger," he told the hosts. "That was the first time I ever lifted weights seriously and I saw some pretty drastic increases in those couple months and it gave me a lot of confidence coming into this season."
Confidence that continued to develop throughout the year, and perhaps became his trademark, whether he was playing to the home crowd or inciting the visiting fans.
"I really love to play basketball, and I hope people when they watch me appreciate the joy that I get," he said. "I love playing on the road, getting into it with the crowd. That's just all part of me having fun."
Stauskas met with NBA executives last week at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago May 15-16, and his confidence definitely came through. Stauskas is projected to be a top 10-15 pick.
"I don't want to be known as cocky, but I've always been a very confident kid, and I hope teams know that," he shared. "If they decide to pick me, they're going to be getting a kid that really believes in himself regardless of who else is on the floor.
"I just feel like I belong in the NBA and I'm able to compete. I hope teams got that vibe from me."
Reflecting back on his incredible sophomore season, Stauskas told ESPN it took a few days to recover from the Maize and Blue's season-ending 75-72 loss to Kentucky in the Elite Eight.
"We were so close and not many teams can say they went back-to-back Final Fours," he said in the interview. "We were a couple possessions away from having that happened.
"We played the best we could have played. We got out-rebounded in that game, which hurt us, but we couldn't have done a better job than we did. I was proud of our guys. It was tough to see the season end that way but that's the way basketball goes."
You can check out SVP & Russillo's podcasts of previous shows here.
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