Nik Stauskas survives his rookie campaign

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Nik Stauskas is a rookie no longer.  After a rough first year he is ready to move forward, both mentally and physically.

The NBA has a way of changing a young man.  Plenty of players lose the moxie and confidence that made them great in college, at least initially.  Rookie seasons can break a player and Stauskas’ numbers show a 21-year-old kid that bent and twisted to the point of snapping.

But that’s not Nik Stauskas.  He is part Justin Bieber, part Corey Haim from License to Drive.  He is owning his new “Sauce Castillo” nickname, even partnering with Musashi Foods on a branded hot sauce.

It’s been a wild first season for Stauskas, but he’s learned plenty and even got his drivers license.  Before the former Michigan star left for summer vacation, he sat down with Cowbell Kingdom for an exit interview.

CK: You’re coming to the end of your rookie season.  Where do you go from here? What is your plan for this summer?  What are you going to focus on?

NS: I’m going back to Michigan this summer and I’m going to just spend a lot of time with the strength coach there that I’ve worked with in the past.  After my freshman year at Michigan, I spent a full summer with him dedicating myself to the weight room.  I put on 15 pounds of muscle that summer and just made a real big jump in my game.  So I plan on doing the same thing this year.  Going through the whole season I realized that I’ve got to get a lot stronger.  That’s kind of the one thing at this point that’s holding me back from being the player I want to be.  That’s the one thing I’m going to attack in the offseason.

CK: What is your biggest take away from this season?

NS: I think it’s just moving on from one game to another.  I feel like, especially early on in the year, I was so used to the college game where you maybe have one or two games a week.  And when you finish those games, it’s like, your entire mood is based off how those one or two games went.  In the NBA, you don’t have time to reflect on those type of games when you play the next night.  For me, early on in the year, I felt like I was just dwelling on the past games and sometimes that was frustrating to me when I wasn’t playing well.  Going into the summer, I think mentally I’m ready for next year.  Not to focus so much when I’m not playing the way I want to.

CK: We saw the highs and the lows early in the season from you and some of the distractions from the outside.  Are you going work on the way you handled the negativity or maybe have someone stay with you in Sacramento this coming season?

NS: One of the plans I have this summer when I go back to Michigan is, I can’t really explain his job title, but he’s kind of like a mental coach.  He’s worked with Michael Phelps.  He’s worked with Desmond Howard.  He’s worked with Tom Brady.  He’s worked with a lot of the best athletes that come from Michigan.  And I’m planning on working with him this summer.  One of the plans is to eliminate some of the things you talked about – having those things creep into my head, you know outside distractions kind of get to me on the floor.  That’s one of the things I was going to try to do in the offseason as well, prepare myself mentally for next year.

CK: Do you feel like you made the right move coming out of college last summer?

NS: Yeah, obviously my year hasn’t gone the way I planned it, but I think after the year I had last year, we won the Big 10 championship, I was Big 10 Player of the Year and I was second team All-American.  I just felt like even if I came back, if I did all of those same things again, my draft wouldn’t have changed.  So I just felt like it was the right time for me to go pro and I didn’t have much left to do in college.

CK: What do you expect from the Kings on the way out the door?  What will they want you to work on?

NS: The strength part is pretty obvious.  There’s no doubt they are going to want me to work on that.  But also my ball handling as well.  I’m sure I’m going to be working with the coaches, whether I come back here to Sac or they come to visit me.  I’m sure there is going to be a lot for me to work on.

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