When the Michigan Wolverines marched to the national title game a year ago against the Louisville Cardinals, some questions began popping up about the future plans of guys like Tim Hardaway Jr., Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary and Nik Stauskas. (Trey Burke‘s departure to the was an obvious given.) This season, the question remains for three Wolverines, most notably Stauskas, who has yet to make a decision. However, it would be a poor decision on his part to return to Michigan for next season and spend another year at the college level.
Stauskas’ stock is as high as it will ever be. He’s gotten stronger, proven he can handle the ball, and somehow managed to improve his shooting percentage from a year ago. On top of all that, he led the Wolverines with 3.3 assists per game. He showed he can learn on the fly and adjust to defenses keying in on him with different defenders and strategies; his defense certainly isn’t the highlight of his game, but the added strength did help in that department. Everything is looking up for this sharpshooter. Why wait around?
I think one common misconception people have concerning Stauskas and his game translating to the next level is the fact that he doesn’t need to be a world-class defender. It’s not like he’ll be guarding LeBron James or Paul George. His matchups likely won’t be favorable, but there are plenty spot-up shooters in the NBA who can be guarded by a guy like Stauskas.
So, now that that’s out of the way, let’s look at the major upside this kid has on the offensive end of the floor. One of the biggest improvements Stauskas made from his freshman year to his sophomore year was ball handling, which allowed him to create for himself on many occasions. Coming into this season, some were worried Stauskas would be limited because of poor ball handling, but that was not the case. If the ball couldn’t be delivered to him in rhythm, he looked just as comfortable taking it from the top of the key and putting his skill on display.
An underrated part of Stauskas’ game was court vision. Just because he got into the paint didn’t mean he was going to toss up some ridiculous shot. He used his reputation to his advantage and exploited to defenses that would overdo the help and either dished it off to a big man under the rim, or kicked it out to an open shooter. He used his one-man-show ability to create for everyone else.
Watching Stauskas play for two seasons at Michigan, the biggest and boldest feature of his game remained to be his swagger. He knew he was going to drill a three with your hand in your face, or maybe he was going to blow by you altogether. He played with a confidence coaches absolutely love seeing in players; all the skill in the world means nothing if you leave the lid on it.
In my mind, especially as this past season progressed, I was thinking the only way Stauskas sticks around to see a junior season is if he injures himself or his game completely falls off a cliff. However, neither of those things happened; he only got better. It would be a very poor decision on his part to return to Michigan for another year, and I think he knows it.
Tyler Fenwick is a Big 10 writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.