Nik Stauskas has come a long way since leaving Ann Arbor in 2014.
After two successful seasons with the Wolverines, Stauskas was drafted eighth overall by the Sacramento Kings. After a year there and stints in Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Portland and Cleveland, Stauskas went across the globe to play in Spain.
Now, Stauskas is trying to make it back to the NBA. After a training camp deal in Milwaukee and a brief stint with Toronto’s G League team, Stauskas is now back in the state of Michigan playing for Denver’s G League affiliate in Grand Rapids.
Maize n Brew had the chance to speak with Stauskas about being back in the state of Michigan, and got his thoughts on the newest Michigan players, Juwan Howard’s recruiting prowess and keeping up with old teammates.
This conversation has been edited for clarity and length
Kellen Voss: So how does it feel to be playing in Grand Rapids and back in the state of Michigan after being gone for so long?
Nik Stauskas: It’s good, it still feels like home a little bit even though we’re a little ways away from Ann Arbor, but we’ve been making Grand Rapids kind of feel like home and getting situated the first couple months of the season.
KV: Have you gotten the chance to watch Michigan basketball at all this year?
NS: No, I haven’t yet, but I need to start doing my homework.
KV: They got a talented freshman class right now with guys like Houstan, Diabate, Collins...kind of similar to what you guys had (in 2013) with you and McGary and Robinson III and stuff. Could be similar things happening there.
NS: Yeah, and we got a fellow Canadian in Houstan. I’m rooting for him and the team for sure, and I’m definitely going to start watching some games.
KV: Who do you think is a better shooter: you or Houstan?
NS: I’ll definitely go with myself, but he’s an incredible talent. He might be a better overall player than I was coming into Michigan, so we’ll have to see how things fit for him.
KV: What do you think of Juwan Howard’s tenure so far as the head coach?
NS: He’s great. And he’s a very different coach than Coach Beilein. I think his ability to recruit the top tier, the top five, top 10 (players in their class) is going to come into play, and I think you’ve already seen that with his ability to recruit guys like Caleb Houstan. I think Beilein’s recruiting style was a little different in terms of finding hidden gems, guys that were flying under the radar a bit but had a lot of potential. I think Juwan is going to really have that ability to bring in household names and really just boost that program into the national program it’s been.
KV: Do you still keep in touch with any of those guys that you played with in your college days?
NS: Definitely, I try to stay in touch with as many guys as I can. I’m not on social media anymore, so that makes it a little more difficult.
KV: That’s probably good for your mental health.
NS: Yeah, it’s easier (to catch up with guys) especially during the season, you get the chance to run into anyone. A couple weeks ago, we got to play against Derrick Walton Jr. with the Motor City team. Any time I get a chance to run into those guys before or after the game, we definitely chop it up a bit and catch up with each other.
Former Michigan standout Isaiah Livers is also on the Motor City Cruise team that Stauskas referenced.
If you would like to see Stauskas play for the Grand Rapids Gold, they play their home games at the DeltaPlex Arena in Walker, Michigan. Their next two games are against the Fort Wayne Mad Ants (the Indiana Pacers affiliate) on Dec. 14 and 15. Both those games will be broadcast on ESPN+, with tip off set for 7 p.m. both nights.