WELLESLEY, Mass. -- Nik Stauskas' first year stateside, away from his native Southern Ontario, wasn't an easy transition. After impressing folks with his smooth jumper as a guard with the Grassroots Canada AAU squad over the summer of 2009, he took his talents to South Kent, the Connecticut prep school renowned for its basketball prowess and numerous alums in Division 1 programs.
And that's when the homesickness kicked in.
"Our school was in the middle of a forest," he said. "We didn't have anything around us. So I mean, I'm used to being around a city. I live near Toronto, so I'm not used to being in a forest, and you walk around at night and there's deer around you, all these animals. It wasn't something I was used to."
Stauskas had become familiar with St. Mark's head coach David Lubick that same summer, and reached out to him during the last school year, eventually taking a tour of the campus before enrolling over this past summer. This time around, playing alongside fellow 2012 stars Alex Murphy and Kaleb Tarczewski, he feels he is fitting in alot better. And at that, he's a major contributor, knocking down a team-high 23 points in last night's 77-47 win over Brimmer & May at day one of the Hoop Mountain Scholar Roundball Classic, at Babson College.
The 6-foot-6 Stauskas has drawn the eye of high-majors like Michigan, Notre Dame, Georgia Tech and Stanford for his textbook, feathery long-range shot. That was evident last night, as he nailed his first two three-point attempts from the wing; he was also able to cut through the lane off the dribble for layups at several points in the contest. But defense, always a primary point of emphasis with Lubick, remains an area of improvement.
"He's starting to learn," Lubick said of Stauskas (who, by the way, hates hockey). "It's absolute classic stuff, kid coming from Canada, just really didn't have alot of experience conditioning or playing defense. And he's getting it, I'm kinda hard on him sometimes but I'm really pleased with his development. He just was never pushed to do either one of those things before, and he's used to playing fast and loose."
And so while he's yet to reach his ceiling, Lubick notes, "You see all the good."
"He's got bounce, and he can shoot the ball and make good decisions. He's a basketball player, 100 percent basketball player," Lubick said. "He's a gym rat. He loves it, and he's learning a ton. You want your kids to be dedicated to the game, and he's unbelievably dedicated. Great player."
And who better to show him the ropes than Murphy, the No. 6 overall prospect in the Class of 2012 according to ESPNU. During the Lions' open gyms this fall, Lubick often paired him up against the athletic 6-foot-8 swingman, who himself threw down a vicious tomahawk in the last night's win. Injuries in the lineup have put those plans on hold for now, but Lubick says the Murphy-Stauskas matchups will continue to happen down the road.
Stauskas relishes in those battles with Murphy and Tarczewski -- "It's an amazing experience playing with those two guys," he says.
"When I go up against Alex, he's bigger than me. He's 6-8, 6-9, so he's got the reach and length on me," Stauskas said. "But he's just making me better. I'm making him better, he's making me better."