Former teammate praises work ethic of Sacramento Kings rookie Nik Stauskas

Former Michigan teammates Tim Hardaway Jr. & Nik Stauskas. (Photo:

If you ask Tim Hardaway Jr. to describe Nik Stauskas in two words, gym rat would probably be his phrase of choice.

The New York Knicks guard played one season of college ball with the Sacramento Kings rookie at the University of Michigan. According to Hardaway Jr., there was no one who worked harder than the 20-year-old shooting guard.

“I think Nik has the best work ethic in any athlete I’ve seen,” Hardaway Jr. told Cowbell Kingdom back in July while competing for USA Basketball’s Select Team in Las Vegas. “I mean, after games that we lost or when we came back from a road trip, he’d go right back in the practice facility and stay in there until about 2 am to 2:30 in the morning when we’d have class at 8 am.”

That’s pretty strong praise considering Hardaway Jr. grew up in a basketball household. His father, Tim Sr., as many of you might know spent 13 seasons in the league, teaming up with Hall of Fame workers like Mitch Richmond and Alonzo Mourning.

Stauskas’ work ethic at the University of Michigan was contagious. It wasn’t out of the ordinary for fellow teammates to stick around and put in the extra hours alongside the Sacramento Kings rookie.

“Even our off-days, we’d all go in and work out with him,” Hardaway Jr. said. “He just kept that mindset and focus even when he had a great game, he’d still go in there. It’s just great to just see that and hopefully he carries that on while he’s a pro.”

In addition to being a hard worker and willing learner, the Sacramento Kings guard is very competitive. “Really, really competitive” according to his former college teammate. Hardaway Jr. says Stauskas maintains a good balance between being critical and positive about himself while he works to get better.

Where does Stauskas’ desire to improve come from? Probably from his long-term goal that he finally achieved this summer – becoming a player in the NBA.

“That was just his mindset – ‘I wanna play, I wanna fulfill my dream’,” the New York Knicks shooting guard said of his former college teammate. “That’s just the road that he took.”

Hardaway Jr. thinks that the Sacramento Kings are a “great situation” for Stauskas. He likes the talent his former college teammate will be playing with in Sacramento, including DeMarcus Cousins and Ben McLemore. From Darren Collison to Rudy Gay, Hardaway Jr. also believes that Stauskas will benefit from being around the veterans that the Sacramento Kings have.  It also won’t hurt Stauskas to be around the presence of a couple of Hall of Fame players.

“He has a lot of veterans around him and a guy like Chris Mullin that’s on that staff as well,” Hardaway Jr. said. “He can learn from him. It’s gonna be great for him.”

The New York Knicks shooting guard also dismissed any doubts about Stauskas’ potential on defense. Coming into last June’s draft, questions surrounded the Sacramento Kings shooting guard’s ability on the defensive side of the court. However, Hardaway Jr. thinks that Stauskas will adapt to the league’s style of play on defense in due time.

“Obviously, it’s gonna be different moving from college to professional,” Hardaway Jr. said. “But it takes a year or two to just get used to it.  I think he’s a way more better defensive player than people give him credit for, so hopefully he could prove them wrong.”

There’s a lot for the Sacramento Kings to like about Nik Stauskas. Old college teammates like Hardaway Jr. can vouch for that.


Jonathan Santiago
Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.

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