“This was just one of those things, he could be by himself and he was just happy as a lark, he didn’t need anybody, he could be there for hours, flicking shots. And you know how kids get, they start playing games in their head and they start fantasizing that they’re hitting the last-second shot in an important game. He’d just play games with himself, just very happy.”
Stauskas shared his backyard shooting exploits online, turning into a bit of a YouTube showman. In one video, shot on Christmas Eve of 2012, Stauskas, in tuque and track suit, dropped 45 of 50 three-point shots. In another, shot on a rainy day last spring, he made good on 70 of 76 attempts — including 46 in a row — in the span of five minutes. That YouTube video has over 500,000 views, and even caught the attention of Stephen Curry. Golden State’s star guard retweeted the video, and wrote: “3pt contest sometime (at)NStauskas11 ????? this is Impressive.”
Stauskas tweeted: “I love waking up to a challenge by the best 3 point shooter in the world!!! Today might be a good day HA!”
The Canadian quickly gained a fan following in his rookie year at Michigan. Paul Stauskas remembers it was a couple of tuba players on the school band that came up with the maize-and-blue version of the Maple Leaf that flew at games in Ann Arbor. The tuba players then created a T-shirt with the maize-and-blue flag. Underneath the Maple Leaf it read: “The best Canadian import since Molsons.”
For a pre-season game this past winter, Paul Stauskas and 50 friends, neighbours and family members chartered a Greyhound bus from Mississauga to Ann Arbor. They all wore the T-shirts.
“We were the Nik Stauskas cheering section,” Paul said.
He and his wife Ruta were regulars at Wolverines games, attending about 15 games in each of Nik’s two seasons.
“We’ve followed him all over the country, to Atlanta, to Dallas, all over the place, and those road trips for us were a ton of fun,” Paul said. “The whole point is, my wife and I, we’re financially secure. We never needed our kids to ‘Oh you’ve got to get this good job to get me out of a bad situation, go pro.’ It was always just having family fun. And Nik just happened to be really good at what he was doing.
“It’s been fun, the entire ride. You think Disneyland is fun. This is a helluva ride.”
The family is happily buckling up for what lies ahead. Most mock drafts have Stauskas going anywhere from 11th to 14th (Denver, Orlando, Minnesota and Phoenix). Next season’s NBA rookie scale has the No. 11 pick getting paid just under US$1.9 million in the first year.
“It’s really exciting to think of the teams he might play on, and the players he might play with and against,” Paul Stauskas said. “Nik has idolized LeBron James from the second LeBron stepped on the court. I was just saying to Nik ‘Nik you’re going to be playing against him!’
“The first time he steps out on the court, and he plays against LeBron, I think he’s going to be shell-shocked. He’s probably going to go up to him and ask him for his autograph,” he added, laughing.
Paul Stauskas can’t help but imagine the possible roster permutations. He’s heard the Chicago Bulls — who have the No. 16 pick — might like his son.
“We were sitting there thinking ‘Can you imagine Nik, you’re playing with (Derrick) Rose?’ WOW. . . I can just hear it now: ’Rose to Skauskas, Stauskas back to Rose, OH AND IT’S INNNN!’ That would be fantastic.”
He thinks Boston — which has both a lottery pick and the No. 17 pick — would be a good fit.
“With Rajon Rondo there, I can imagine Nik playing with Rondo,” Paul said. “When Rondo first came in the league, both me and Nik saw his very first game and we looked at each other and we go, ‘Wow, is this guy good.’ So imagine we see this guy and a few years later (Nik’s) playing side-by-side with him. It’s crazy.”