2012-13 Player Preview: Nik Stauskas

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Nik Stauskas probably isn’t the best player in Michigan’s freshman class but he just might be the most important. Due to transfers and graduation, the Wolverines lose over half of their three point production from a season ago. For a team and coach that has been so consistently dependent on the three point shot, that’s a big deal. Stauskas is clearly the freshman best suited to fill that three point sniper role on Michigan’s roster and should have every opportunity to prove himself early in the season.

Michigan has playmakers (Burke, Hardaway), big men (Morgan, McGary, Horford) and a great athlete (Robinson) but the offense will be handicapped without a legitimate three point shooting threat. If Stauskas can play the role of shooter deluxe, as many expect, it will go a long way toward balancing Michigan’s offense.

At 6-foot-6, he’s taller than his predecessors, Zack Novak and Stu Douglass, at the shooting guard position which could go a long way toward protecting against his other weaknesses early in his transition to the college game.

Reasons for Excitement:

  • Three Point Shooting: All of the evidence shows that Stauskas is a great shooter… at the prep level. All of the evidence from prep school and AAU suggests that Stauskas is a great shooter with a quick, consistent and efficient release. However, attempting to predict how well Stauskas will shoot as a freshman is guess work until he steps on the floor. But at the end of the day, it’s a safe bet that he’ll get every opportunity to audition as one of Michigan’s primary shooters.
  • Length: This is a trait that has the ability to make up for plenty of Stauskas’s other shortcomings. He’s not the most athletic player in the conference by any means but at 6-foot-6, he can overcome that. The length will help him almost everywhere on the floor: shooting over defenders, driving to the basket, on defense, etc. Michigan operated with 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-4 shooters throughout most of the last year, so the upgrade should be noticeable right away.
  • Versatility: Stauskas already has shown to be more than just a shooter. While he’s not going to be running multiple isolation plays or screen-and-roll sets every night, he does have the ability to keep defenses honest. If he needs to put the ball on the floor he can get to the basket or find a teammate. That’s something that took Zack Novak and Stu Douglass four years to develop. Stauskas isn’t going to be the best slasher, passer or ball handler on the team, but the ability to do just a bit of everything should be invaluable as he transitions to the college  game.

Causes for Concern

  • Quickness & Athleticism: Stauskas has played high level basketball throughout his career whether in prep school or on the AAU circuit but whether or not he keep up with the pace of the college game on both ends remains to be seen.  A summer in Michigan’s strength and conditioning program will help but athleticism and quickness will probably be the bottle neck on Stauskas’s freshman season.
  • Defense: Defense manifests itself from the lack of athleticism above but all freshmen go through a major transition defensively. At Michigan’s media day, John Beilein said that defense was what would determine whether Stauskas finds his way onto the floor consistently. It also wouldn’t be surprising for Michigan to experiment with zone looks when he’s in the game in attempts to maximize his length and minimize his lack of quickness.
  • Adjustment to college game: The jump from high school shooter to high-major shooter is dramatic. Stauskas played in a competitive NEPSAC prep school league, well above most high schools, but it remains to be seen how he fares at the college level. Even great shooters can struggle with the transition as freshmen. Jon Diebler is a great example, the Ohio State wing shot 29% on threes as a freshman before connecting on 44% of his threes over the next three seasons.

Outlook

In many ways, Stauskas could be in a perfect situation as a freshman. When he’s on the floor, he’ll often have Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. flanking him in the backcourt. Opposing perimeter defenses will focus on those two, and it’s likely that a fair amount of open shots will find their way to the Canadian freshman. Zack Novak, Stu Douglass and Evan Smotrycz all averaged over 100 three point attempts per season and it’s probably safe to pencil in at least 100 three point attempts in Stauskas’s freshman season.

If he can hit those shots, Michigan has a valuable asset. If he can’t it’s back to the drawing board. There were high hopes for Matt Vogrich to step in immediately as a shooter on Michigan’s roster and make an impact. To date, he really hasn’t. Vogrich isn’t Stauskas and vice versa, but in this day and age the label of a shooter simply can’t be applied until it’s proven on the big stage.

Bottom Line

John Beilein compared Stauskas to a “five tool baseball player” at Michigan’s Media Day. That’s a strong endorsement for a true freshman before the start of practice. The versatility of Stauskas’s skillset could make him a perfect fit in a sort of complementary shooter role. He can do just enough of everything else to make his shooting a legitimate weapon.

Stauskas is a consensus top-100 recruit, rated 78th in RSCI’s consensus ranks, and although he’s not as highly rated as Glenn Robinson III or Mitch McGary, he’s still rated higher than any Michigan commitment since Manny Harris. Simply put, he should be expected to make an impact in his first season in Ann Arbor.

Stauskas’s production will be determined by two things: whether he’s able to play adequate defense and whether he can hit open shots consistently. If he can do both of those things, he’ll have a huge impact on Michigan’s success in 2012-13.

Quotable: “He’s just got a natural ability to find the bottom of the basket. What separates Nik is, what we hope will make him a very difficult guard, that where some guys are just shooters, Nik, if you come out on Nik he can put the ball down on the floor and get to where he wants to go to. Some guys can do that and then can’t throw drop-off passes and see the court. He has been able to do that thus far. With that being said, we see that, we like it, now we’ve got to defend. I sense he is embracing (defense), because he knows that is how he gets to do the other stuff. Like most shooters, they love shooting the ball. I would sense that if he continues doing what he has been doing so far, he among some others will have a pretty green light to let it ride.” – John Beilein at Michigan Media Day 2012

  • JimmyZ5

    Stauskas managed to score an efficient 30+ against Baylor last season. The same Baylor that was undefeated through most of last year in a high-level conference. T That game, combined with his HS league, have me believing he’s ready to contribute soon. I think that he’ll have room to improve athletically and as a college player, but it won’t prevent him from giving us good minutes like it did for Vogrich.

    I expect a good 4-6 ppg in ~10 minutes a game and hope he can give us some minutes at PG.

    • michaelz

      Is he any less heralded than Vogrich was as a shooter? My memory was Vogrich was a 4 star and we were really excited about him. Could this be a similar player?

      • http://www.umhoops.com/ Dylan Burkhardt

        Vogrich was more of a 100-150 range kid. Pretty sure Scout had him at 100, Rivals somewhere around 130. Stauskas is legitimately in RSCI (consensus) top 100 so that’s saying something.

      • JimmyZ5

        As a shooter, both have been listed among the top shooters in their class in the superlatives that Rivals/Scout like to put out. But Stauskas seems to have a much more complete game at this point. I’m most excited about his ability to handle the ball and potentially create shots inside the arc.

        • michaelz

          ESPN RECRUIT PROFILE: “Vogrich as a prolific shooter who will stretch defenses in the Big 10. Matt is a sharp shooting two guard who is not afraid to take and make big shots. He possesses range well beyond the three point line and will force Big 10 defenses to come out”

          SCOUT RECRUIT PROFILE: One of the top players in Illinois for 2009. Vogrich has always been known as a terrific shooter but has shown to be athletic enough to beat his man off the dribble and score around the basket.

          • JimmyZ5

            lol so it looks like I have a short memory. Still, both are highly regarded as a shooter and while Scout mentions an ability to beat a guy of the dribble I think we’ve seen it emphasized much more with Stauskas. The bottom line is that Vogrich’s profile doesn’t match what we’ve seen in college. He can be a nice player, but he’s a shooter and back door threat without much ability to break his man down.

    • Dyenimator

      10 mpg? Expect more like 20-25.and 7-8 pts.

      • JimmyZ5

        I can certainly see and it a hope he does. The prediction is based on competition for minutes. If he wins the starting SG job, sure. But I’m expecting
        5 – Morgan
        4- McGary
        3- Robinson
        2- Hardaway
        1- Burke
        B(6) – Horford (5/4)
        B(7) – Stauskas (2/3)
        B(8) – Vogrich (2/3)
        B(9-12) – Won’t even try to predict Caris, Spike, Max, or Eso…although I think Blake will get a few minutes here and there fora different look, or foul trouble.

        So if he comes off the bench he’ll fight with Vogrich for minutes at the wing. I think it’s going to be tough to eat Vogrich’s minutes, considering he’s a senior with some seasoning, leadership, and a stroke. If he can earn some time at the 1, he could get to 20-25.

        • Kenny

          I have little doubt that we will see GRIII at 4 a lot, which means 35-40 minutes between Vogrich and Stauskas at 2-3. Vogrich is the best cutter on the team but his handle may prevent him playing a lot of minutes at 2,

  • John Frank

    In his last 2 years in highschool Stauskas played with Alex Murphy (Duke) and Kaleb Tarzewski (Arizona). Both these players were ranked top 5 in the country. Stauskas was the point leader for his team both years.
    In the finals last year Stauskas dropped 19 points on Tilton (Nerlens Noel #1 ranked). He was named game MVP and team MVP. How does this “unathletic” kid routinely outscore and outplay 3 of the top 10 kids in the country?
    Although THJ and GR3 might be more athletic than Stauskas, Stauskas is a much better ball handler, passer and shooter than either. Although I’m paraphrasing, Larry Bird once said “If this was a track meet, I’d be out of a job”. The point here is that Bird was never the best athelete, but was definitely one of the best players. Gyms are filled with kids that can jump 40+ inches and run 100 yards in under 10 seconds. Athleticism does NOT (as you always imply) translate into a good basketball player. Do you think Denard Robinson would start?
    My prediction is that Stauskas is the most productive freshman and one of the top scorers on the team. I have no doubt he’ll see 20 minutes to start and as much as 30+ by the end of the year. I also predict 13+ ppg.
    Dylan, you’re giving Stauskas backhanded complements in your post. “Nik Stauskas probably isn’t the best player in Michigan’s freshman class but … “. “All of the evidence shows that Stauskas is a great shooter… at the prep level.” ” Defense manifests itself from the lack of athleticism “. All you’re doing is parroting the crap you’ve read on other sites like ESPN. None of these sites have updated their comments on Stauskas in about 2 years. Until you actually see him play (and I know you haven’t), you might want to keep comments like this to yourself.
    As one of the other posters has made reference to, Stauskas scored approx 30 pts against a highly ranked NCAA Baylor team (over 1 year ago). How does all this give you the impression that he’s “unathletic” and questions about how his game translates to the college level?

    • http://www.umhoops.com/ Dylan Burkhardt

      So he has no weaknesses? There are no questions about how his game will translate?

      I haven’t seen him play in person but have watched footage of full games. Saying he’s not as good as Glenn or Mitch, two guys I have seen in person quite a bit, isn’t meant to be an insult. Also, I’m pretty sure I’m not parroting two year old scouting reports from ESPN.

      Questioning whether he’s quick enough isn’t meant to be an insult it’s a real question.

      He can do quite a bit and he’s going to be a huge part of this team. Once he starts playing college games, it’ll be a lot easier to make judgments about what he does at the college level. For now, just like Mitch and (soon) Glenn’s player preview, a lot of it is conjecture.

    • JimmyZ5

      I agree that he’ll be a productive player this season, but I think your response came off a little too critical on Dylan. I obviously stated below that I think athleticism and transitioning to the college game won’t be as drastic as they were for Vogrich (my classic example because it was so clear), but Dylan is correct when he says that they are still his “Weaknesses.” I’m sure Nik himself would agree that he has plenty to work on.

    • Mattski

      I don’t understand your hostility. You can take it for granted that Dylan wants Stauskas to excel. After that, if you think you know different, tell us–civilly!

    • jblair52

      Yes, Denard would start. He’d be so bad-@$$ on the pick-and-roll with Taylor Lewan (if he wasn’t in foul trouble).

    • Retiredat23

      John Frank you’re very high on Stauskas….I can only assume you’re family or a close family friend

    • Mark Worthley

      John, chill out there buddy. There’s no use to anger on an internet message board. You’re making yourself look foolish.

      Everyone who reads this stuff hopes that Stauskas becomes a Michigan legend. By all accounts he’s got a good head on his shoulders, and with the ability to attend U of M for school, he’s already way ahead of the game compared to his peers. There is no reason to worry about anything else.

  • http://www.umhoops.com/ Dylan Burkhardt

    Tim McCormick tweeted a few thoughts from practice: (http://www.twitter.com/TMcCormickESPN)
    Heading to A2 for @umichbball practice big question is the annual rebound concern now a strength w/ McGary Morgan Horford #norebound-noring

    New facilities for @umichbball incredible 2 yrs ago substandard today a game changer no chance to recruit McGary & Robinson w/o the upgrade

    First impression @umichbball most talent since the Fab Five – 5 legit NBA prospects 11 deep tremendous size loaded with athletes on the wing

    #michiganbasketball practice thoughts Jon Horford is 260 top 5 bigs in the Big 10 Trey Burke has added leg strength Hardaway improved handle

    Nick Stauskas @umichbball has not missed – Best M shooter since Lou Bullock? – like Jon Diebler from OSU but better athlete/handle #starter?

    • http://www.umhoops.com/ Dylan Burkhardt

      Gotta say I chuckle about the facilities comment just a bit given that Robinson committed just over 2 years ago when none of this stuff was in place. Of course the plans were in place and all of that but it’s a little easier to recruit with something you can see than a power point presentation. I would expect the “facilities” bounce to continue.

      • DingoBlue

        Agreed, I chuckled a bit as well at that, but I agree we are extremely lucky to have the new facilities now.

        • http://www.umhoops.com/ Dylan Burkhardt

          Let’s just hope Stauskas doesn’t go through a cold streak and have “best shooter since Louis Bullock” turn into LLP’s “best point guard since Rumeal Robinson”….Call it the McCormick kiss of death.

          At least we are pretty sure that Stuaskas *is* a shooter, whereas Lucas-Perry was never a point guard.

    • rasmus

      5 legit NBA prospect… Who would they be?

      • Guest

        Burke, THJ, GRIII, McGary and maybe Horford?

        • Kenny

          Stauskas

  • DingoBlue

    Very excited about Nick in the class.

    On an off-topic note. When will the B1G media day happen? I keep seeing the other media days on ESPN.

    • http://www.umhoops.com/ Dylan Burkhardt

      Thursday. Pressers will be streamed at video.btn.com. Joe will be there covering for us.

  • jblair52

    Stauskas is our most highly rated recuit under Beilein outside of McGary and Robinson. Higher than Stu, Novak, Morris, Hardaway, Morgan, and Burke – all who made early contributions in their careers as freshmen or sophs.

    I have faith Stauskas can make an impact this season.

  • Champswest

    I think that Stauskus is the guy that will make this team go. With him stroking threes from the 2spot, it will open things up for Trey and and Tim and the bigs.

  • sane1

    IMO, his passing ability will be a calling card. Nik can put the ball on the floor if defenders run at him, and he has a pretty nice crossover move. But the key, as Beilein mentioned, is that he knows what to do with the ball once he gets in the lane. Watch his videos. He’s a slick passer who puts the ball on the money.

  • geoffclarke

    I don’t think Stauskas will have a problem offensively (especially considering the comments from Beilein and past comments I’ve read from his HS coach (plus all the video I’ve watched)). Plus we know he was making a concerted effort to improve defense at least later in his prep school career and definitely is now. I don’t think any shortcomings he’s had on defense has to do with athleticism, though. In other words, I think he can be a very good defender with the proper training, attitude, and conditioning. With his length and length of his teammates, it will come…just a matter of time.

    • RikWaero

      I agree with you, Stu Douglass was our best wing defender last year, and nothing I’ve seen on film of Stauskas indicates that he’s a vastly inferior athlete compared to Stu. Technique, positioning and timing are very important as well as athleticism, which is really a tool to compensate for lack of those three other aspects mentioned at the beginning of this really long sentence.

  • section13row15

    First let me say that I do believe Nik is a more complete player than people give him credit for. But let’s not forget how complex Beilein’s offense and defense is with all the switches they do up top and guarding guys that are the best of the best in the big 10. I watched Brundidge last year (in very few minutes which is part of my point) get completely lost on D on a few occasions and if Beilein can’t trust that he knows what he’s doing out there, he will not play in the game. This isn’t HS where you can just go out there and overpower people with your ability. He will have to adapt to the college game which is all Dylan is saying. If he can do that, he will contribute early.

  • rasmus

    I think Robinson is the more important ingredient for this team. We lost both players at the 4 from last year and unlike the rest of the world, I don’t see McGary at the 4 in Belein’s offense.

  • Kenny

    My prediction is that Stauskas ends up playing more than 20 minutes per game, if he does not, then Vogrich will.

    The math is fairly simple, if GRIII splits his 30 minutes per game between 50%-50% between 3 and 4, that leaves a total of 65 minutes shared by THJ, Stauskas, Vogrich, and possibly Caris at 2-3. If THJ plays 30 minutes a game, Stauskas and Vogrich will fill in the rest of 35 minutes. If GRIII plays mostly at 4, which in my opinion, is more likely than him playing mostly at 3, Stauskas will end up playing more minutes.

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