ANN ARBOR—The last time Nik Stauskas walked off the floor after game action it was in losing fashion at the hands of the national champions, Louisville.
With the defeat in mind and an understanding of the type of player he wanted to be in his second go round as a college basketball player, Stauskas rarely left Ann Arbor during the off-season, staying, working out, and adding muscle to his slender 6-foot-6 frame.
“I’ve definitely gotten a lot stronger, a lot more confident going to the basket,” Stauskas said. “I think I’ve become more of a better defensive player.
“I still think my jump shot has improved, I’ve got a little more range, and my mid-range game has gotten a little bit better.”
Immediately becoming a key to Michigan’s offensive attack as a freshman, Stauskas isn’t satisfied just being known as a knock down, outside shooter, though fans wouldn’t mind seeing another six three-pointer performance as he had in the Elite Eight against Florida in Dallas last March.
“I think this year I just want to let my game talk,” Stauskas said. “I want to go out there and do everything I can for this team.”
Stauskas added, “This year, one thing I came to mind with I want to be a better defensive player. Just putting on that weight, getting a little bit stronger and faster, I think that’s definitely going to help me on the defensive end.
“Overall, I think it’s going to help this team to have another guy that can defend and be vocal out there.”
His head coach agrees.
“He’s getting to the areas he needs to get to,” John Beilein said. “And that’s really important. The bump, he’s not starting out at 12 and ending up at 15. He’s starting out at 12 and he’s ending up at seven or eight or six and he’s playing through contact.”
“Obviously they took up a huge portion of our offense last year,” Stauskas said. “Just naturally that’s going to fall on a lot of the guys on the court now but we’ve worked hard on our games and we’re excited to get those opportunities.”
The question on everyone’s mind heading into Michigan’s exhibition opener Tuesday night against Concordia; Can this group of Wolverines make it back to Monday night?
“I definitely think so,” Stauskas said. “I think right now, we don’t want to look that far ahead just saying we want to win a national championship, but right now we just want to get better everyday and we think when that time comes, when March, April comes around, we think that we can give ourselves an opportunity to make that run again.”