- Allison Farrand/Daily
By Daniel Feldman, Daily Sports Editor
Published June 26, 2014
NEW YORK — Nik Stauskas may have joked before that he wanted to play with LeBron James. But the Sacramento Kings had bigger things in mind for him, making him Michigan’s highest draft pick in 14 years.
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With the eighth pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, the Kings selected the former Michigan guard, making him the highest Michigan player selected since Jamal Crawford was selected eighth overall in the 2000 draft.
“I can’t really put this into words,” Stauskas said in his first official press conference. “I’m just excited to be a Sacramento King. I’ve only heard good things about the city and the organization, so I’m excited to get to work.”
The selection marks the second straight year a former Wolverine has been picked in the top 10. In 2013, the Minnesota Timberwolves selected Trey Burke with the ninth pick before trading him to the Utah Jazz later that night.
Though speculation remained that the Kings might trade their pick, either before the draft or during it, they held steady and picked the sharpshooter.
For a team that selected a shooting guard in last year’s draft in former Kansas player Ben McLemore, it will be interesting to see if Stauskas will come off the bench or be a starter. Regardless, Stauskas will provide some relief to a team that finished tied for 27th in 3-point shooting last season (33 percent).
Though Stauskas admitted he hasn’t watched much Kings’ basketball, he believes in the core of the current team.
“They have DeMarcus Cousins, Isaiah Thomas, Ben McLemore (and) Rudy Gay,” he said. “There are a lot of strong players on the team, but I know they’ve kind of struggled shooting the basketball in the past. So immediately, I think I can be a guy to step in and help stretch the floor and knock down shots for them.”
Unlike at Michigan, Stauskas won’t be playing with a known winner, most likely. The Kings have not made the playoffs since 2006, the second-longest drought in the league.
Whether the Kings have success right away or not, Stauskas noted former Wolverines Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. — 2013 NBA Draft first round picks — as proof he can make it in the NBA and inspiration to make the jump.
“Playing with guys like Trey and Tim my freshman year helped me a lot because I saw a level of commitment, talent and work ethic that they put forward,” he said. “To see them this year have so much success in the NBA, it just made me confident, because I know I can do what they did.”
After sitting at his draft night table with his agent, parents, brother and Michigan coach John Beilein, Stauskas unleashed a handshake with his father to express his gratitude for his night of nerves finally being over. Though Stauskas was nervous his father might get it wrong, he ultimately got it right.
“It was planned last night,” Stauskas said. “I always throw up the three-goggles, so I thought it was more appropriate to do it here.”
After attending Michigan to “play a big role on a good team,” Stauskas is ready for whatever lies ahead at the next level.
“It’s a cliché,” Stauskas said, “but dreams really do come true when you put all your effort into it. I’m just glad Sacramento picked me and I’m not going to let them down.”