Trey Burke offers perspective on former college teammate Nik Stauskas

Trey Burke of the Utah Jazz takes a breather against the Sacramento Kings. (Photo: Tobin Halsey)

LAS VEGAS – Nik Stauskas holds Trey Burke in high regard.

When Stauskas played his first year at the University of Michigan, it was Burke, now a point guard for the Utah Jazz, who showed him the ropes.

“I had a great freshman year with him, and I have the utmost respect for him,” the Kings rookie shooting guard said.  “To this day, I say that Trey’s the best player that I ever played with, so obviously I got a lot of respect for him.  He helped me a lot throughout my freshman year just kind of showing me the ropes.  And a lot of times, he was the guy hitting me for open 3’s and what not, so I had a great time with him.”

Stauskas and Burke didn’t really get a chance to cross paths for very long while the two competed in summer league this year.  However, the 20-year-old guard still considers his former college point guard to be someone he can go to for advice at any time.

The respect from Burke for Stauskas is mutual.  The Jazz starting point guard believes that the Kings’ new shooting guard brings versatility to the table, which is something many teams in the league these days strive to have.

“I haven’t seen the Kings play, but me knowing the type of worker Nik is – his skill-set, what he brings to the team – I know he’s gonna do a great job for the Kings,” Burke said of Stauskas.  “He’s gonna help them out a lot with his versatility, being able to shoot without the ball or putting the ball on the ground and distributing.”

Burke believes that Stauskas made major improvements not just as a player, but as a leader during his second season at Michigan.  The onus was on Stauskas to step up for the Wolverines after Burke and current New York Knicks guard Tim Hardaway Jr. left Ann Arbor for the NBA.  Burke says that Stauskas was one of the young players who embraced his increased responsibilities on coach John Beilein’s 2013-14 roster.

“I felt like he was a guy that stepped up,” the 21-year-old Jazz point guard said of Stauskas.  “He made plays for them down the stretch when they needed a big play.  That’s what big time players like Nik do.”

Being a leader was something that took time for Stauskas to learn, however.  In Burke’s eyes, he thinks it took one year of serving as an understudy behind him and Hardaway Jr. for Stauskas to really grasp what it takes to be a team’s leading man.

“I don’t think when he first came in, he was a leader,” Burke said.  “I think with him having me and Tim and being able to see us lead the team, kind of learn from us, I think that definitely benefited him going into his sophomore season.  Made him that guy that the team listens to down the stretch of close games.  And I think that’s something that I really take pride in – seeing a younger guy that was younger than me that I played with become the leader of the team.”

There have been questions about Stauskas’ defensive abilities coming into the NBA.  The Kings, however, think that his weaknesses on that end of the floor can be overcome through hard work, especially with improved strength and conditioning.  Burke would agree that Stauskas is capable of defending talent at the NBA level.

“In this league, you gotta be able to guard,” Burke said.  “I think he can guard and play defense, but there are a lot of guys at his position that are really skilled, can shoot the ball, can kind of do the same things he can do, so I feel like he needs to just find his niche in the league.”

There’s plenty to like about the Kings’ new shooting guard.  Old teammates like Trey Burke can vouch for that.

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About: 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.