Casspi, Curry, NBA & More! Baskonia star Nik Stauskas on Hoops with The Sports Rabbi

Maccabi Tel Aviv travels to Vitoria to take on Baskonia on Thursday night at 22:00 Israel time on Gameday 8 of Euroleague action. The Yellow & Blue have won five games in a row after dropping their first two contests on the road and are now entering a stretch of three road games beginning and ending in Spain with Baskonia and Barcelona with Milano sandwiched in the middle.

One of Baskonia’s new recruits this season is Nik Stauskas his first five seasons as a professional in the NBA having played with the Sacramento Kings, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Portland Trailblazers and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Canadian born sharp shooter averaged 6.8 points in just under 20 minutes per game in the NBA while he is scoring 9 points a game this season so far in Euroleague action.
The Sports Rabbi had a chance to speak to Stauskas who is making his first foray into Europe just ahead of his first game against Maccabi Tel Aviv where he spoke about moving across the pond.

“The adjustment has been good and I feel the games have been very competitive and intense. Very high level of competition and coming back from injury I’m just trying to get myself back to 100% healthy and I’ve been enjoying myself out there.”

When one thinks of sports in Canada, the first one that usually comes to mind is hockey. But the Mississauga, Ontario native had a special influence that led him to the hardwood instead the ice rink, “I’m also Lithuanian and Lithuanians have a strong basketball culture. My uncle was the first one who invited me to play basketball on a Lithuanian team he was coaching. That was my first introduction to basketball when I was eight years old. Ever since he invited me to play I’ve loved it so much that I didn’t stop.”

Growing up in the greater Toronto area allowed a young Stauskas the chance to watch one of the games greatest stars in Vince Carter, “He was one of my heroes growing up. It was really cool to have someone who is that fun to watch in my city that I could see on TV everyday or go to the games to watch him. He was someone who inspired me to become an NBA player one day and I always wanted to be like him.”

The 6”6 shooting guard attended the University of Michigan under the tutelage of John Beilein who guided the Wolverines for a dozen seasons and is now a head coach in the NBA with the Cavaliers, “John Beilein had a big part in me making it to the NBA. He believed in me when I was in High School and offered me a scholarship to the University of Michigan. He taught me so much about the game and also helped me grow off the court as well. He’s just a great coach overall and I think his understanding of the game is excellent. I think his transition to the NBA will be good and he will be able to help out other guys the same way he helped me.”

Dov Halickman Photography

After just two years at Michigan, Stauskus entered the NBA draft and was selected eighth overall by the Sacramento Kings where he met up with Israeli Omri Casspi who was in his second stint with the team, “Omri was one of the veterans on the Sacramento Kings my rookie year and he was always showing me the ropes, just trying to be a good veteran for me and set a good example of working hard and showing up early for practice and staying late. He showed me the Dos and don’ts of NBA life and I really enjoyed playing with him.

On the court he was a great player and I could tell from day one that he had a European influence in his game just by the way he moved without the ball, his cutting back door and his dribble drive penetration which were all things I learnt from him.”

Stauskus was a bit of a Twitter celebrity when Steph Curry retweeted a video of him hitting 70 of 76 3-pointers. He never got to play with Steph but last season had the opportunity to share the same lockerroom with his brother Seth with the Portland Trail Blazers, “He’s a great player and obviously his brother Steph is well known around the world but Seth is also a very good shooter and one of the best that I’ve ever played with. Getting a chance to play with him last year in Portland was really fun. He’s very motivated, works very hard and he’s also very talented as well.”

After a 4-4 and 3-4 start in the Spanish league and Euroleague respectively, Stauskus says the goal is to always win anytime he suits up, “The goal for the season is to win the ACB and Euroleague championship. I feel like if the goal is not to win, then what are you playing for. Every-time I step on the floor I want to win. I look at this team that we have and I think we have enough talent. We’re still learning and growing but it’s a long season ahead and if we keep working then anything is possible.”

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