Reality finally setting in for Stauskas

Allison Farrand/Daily
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By Daniel Feldman, Daily Sports Writer
Published June 25, 2014

NEW YORK — Almost lost among the swarm of media members sat Nik Stauskas on Wednesday afternoon. As the likely No. 1 and No. 2 picks in Thursday’s NBA Draft, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, answered questions about their potential landing spots, Stauskas faced inquiries regarding many different aspects of his draft process.

For Canadians Stauskas and Wiggins, questions centered around the unusual number of Canadians in this year’s draft. While Wiggins, sitting four tables away, discussed potentially being the first player selected, Stauskas was asked about the growing Canadian export to the league, recently represented by the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Tristan Thompson and Anthony Bennett, and soon the additions of Wiggins, Stauskas and former Syracuse guard Tyler Ennis.

After leaving Canada at age 15 to attend prep school in the States, Stauskas reflected on the growing wave of Canadian talent and the role model he hopes to become for young fans back home. He sounded jittery about potentially having kids saying, “I want to be that guy,” just like Stauskas had done during his childhood about current NBA stars.

Stauskas said being Canadian and wanting to play professional basketball added a chip to his shoulder and that this process has been humbling. The workouts, recovery sessions and travel around the country for workouts — officially three, with the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers and Charlotte Hornets — have made Stauskas a busy man.

But now that draft is just a day away, the reality of the situation is finally settling in for him.

“This is like a hobby for me,” he said. “It’s what I like doing. To call it a job is really strange for me. To make a living off it — it’s weird.”

Right there along for the ride with Stauskas have been former Creighton and Michigan State forwards Doug McDermott and Adreian Payne.

With McDermott, the surreal nature of the draft came about on Tuesday.

“I was hanging out with Doug McDermott and we were talking,” Stauskas said. “Like, we’re going to be on a NBA team. Just saying something like that is really crazy. … Growing up I looked at all these NBA players like heroes. And the fact that I’m here with them right now is just an amazing feeling.”

While the competitive juices have brought out the best in McDermott and Stauskas, two players seen to have similar games, the pair don’t seem to care that some mock drafts have one going before the other.

“That’s fine with us, though,” McDermott said. “I don’t care. We just want both of us to have a good career. If he goes before me, if I go before him, neither of us would care. It’s just one of those deals where a team maybe likes him more than me. … I still think we’re going to be close.”

Stauskas and Payne, who are both represented by Mark Bartelstein of Priority Sports & Entertainment, have been working out and rooming together in Chicago.

“We’re rivals,” Payne said, “but you know it doesn’t really matter right now. We’re friends. Mark (Bartelstein) chose us to stay together, asked if it was fine. He didn’t want us to start no conflict, so we both OK’d it and now we’re friends. He’s a good guy.”

Payne said Stauskas’ “swag” on the court rubbed him the wrong way, though he admitted that as a player, “you’ve got to have some type of swag.” However, Payne said Stauskas is a different person off the court, making him easy to get along with.

Thursday night Stauskas will be sitting with a mix of people that have had a large impact on his life — his parents, brother, agent and Michigan coach John Beilein.

Though Stauskas still doesn’t know for sure where he’ll end up beginning his professional career, he did offer one hypothetical he would be happy with.

“Just pair me up with wherever LeBron goes,” he said. “Let me go. I’ll be happy.”