I will be the first to admit that I've been as critical about Nik Stauskas as anyone. I questioned his ability to combat athletic on ball defense. I questioned his short area quickness and his consistency. I also cringed watching him defend other elite wings. Nik Stauskas is not a finished product....but I'll be damned if he is not the Player of The Year in the B1G. This kid has shown such tremendous growth in just a year's time. He has transformed from a corner shooter to a playmaking offensive machine. Nik Stauskas has answered the bell and his contributions this season have spearheaded the best conference run in recent Michigan History.
I'd like to bounce some ideas off of my fellow Michigan enthusiasts of which I'm referring to as the Stauskas Effect. There are several chain reaction events that I have identified and have attributed to the development of Nik Stauskas's game. These are opinions and this post is meant to spark positive conversation so please chime in!
The Stauskas Effect:
1. Led to the Pressure-Less development of Caris Levert in a sort of Robin-like role to Nik's Batman. Caris has been able to ease into the #2 scorer role without the pressure of the opposition's top defender. This will be huge next season as Caris may be a #1 option.
2. Nik's development has also lessened the pressure to rush Zak Irvin into the fold which likely makes Zak a 3-4 year player all while allowing Zak to have substantial contributions this season. I see a lot of Nik in Zak and I believe that Zak is in for a huge jump next season. Caris Levert's assertion offensively and GR3+ The Beast hopefully returning will still render Zak a 3rd or 4th scoring option....which means hes sticks around a few years :) This also means that DJ Wilson and Kameron Chatman will have time to develop behind Irvin and Walton which will allow for seemless changing of the guards leadership wise over the next 4 years of Michigan Basketball. This is truly huge and does NOT happen if Nik doesn't morph into the POY candidate that he is. His development has added years onto Zak.....GR3...Walton .and likely Chatman's career.
3. Nik's 1v1 ability has also lessened the pressure of Derrick Walton's development due to Nik's ability to create and the rate in which we give Nik the rock at the top of the key. Walton has been able to play off of Nik and hasn't had to face the oppostion's best defenders as a result. This has allowed Walton to avoid being thrown into the fire so to speak and will pay dividends down the road. (Spike is also due much credit for easing Walton in)
4. The Internationa (Stauskas)l Effect. Nik is Canadian...duh. It's one thing to claim that your a world wide recruting program. It's another to take an underrated kid from Canada and develop him to Stardom in the Nation's toughest conference. Belein has done just that. Somewhere there is an underrated Canadian...or Australian...or British kid with a world of talent just waiting to be tapped into. He will be approached by a few universities that will promise the world. When Michigan comes calling....he will have a real life example to follow and believe in. Canada is an untapped gold mine that is just waiting to flourish. Nik has opened the flood gates for future Canadian athletes in Ann Arbor amongst other nations.
5. The Re-inforcement of "Michigan Swag". Michigan has been known for having players in the past that had a little spice in their game. Players that were better than you and they let you know about it with demonstrative gestures and maybe even a little jaw-jacking. Some purists may not prefer this type of behavior and to each his own. Nik Stauskas has "Swag". He plays with a chip and an extra bounce. He makes being a "Shooter" cool...even though we now know he is much more than just a shooter. Nik is what we used to call on the playground, "a Bad Ass White Boy". I think Nik has taken right where Tim and Trey left off and carried the load as the Michigan Star player. He had a Februrary lull but has really picked it up. I think kids that watch Nik will gravitate to our program because at Michigan you can be a Scholar Athlete of the highest caliber and look damn good doing it. A lot of people not in tune with the 16-22 year old mindframe may disagree....but "Swag" is important especially in recruiting. Nik has it and has made us look damn good this season. Luke Kennard is a name that I would watch going forward....he is the perfect example of a kid that could replicate Nik's game in college. (and not just because he is white)
6. Nik's probable B1G Player of the year award will cement Michigan as a guard/wing hot bed in the Midwest and start to pay even bigger dividends on the recruiting trail. Manny....Darius...Trey....Tim...now Nik in just the past 4 years. We are putting elite NBA talent out year after year and it's going to get noticed. Tim and Trey last year could be looked at as a rare output. Not with Nik following up their departure in as grand a fashion as this. We are approaching Guard U status....at least as far as the Midwest is concerned.
I'll be honest with you...I think Nik Stauskas goes pro. He is a top 20 pick and despite his defensive inability and need for additional strength....he is still a solid 1st round draft pick. Another year could make him a lottery lock and folk hero in Ann Arbor to the Nth degree......but I just don't think we're going to be that lucky.. I'd love to be wrong.