Mississauga native Nik Stauskas was back “home” in Toronto with his Philadelphia 76ers; we caught up with Sauce…
[SCENE] In the Air Canada Centre visitors locker room, Stauskas enters and assesses the media contingent that’s waited patiently for him to step off the court. It’s taken Nik a minute since he gets stopped every few steps by someone who knows him and wants a word. He’s got a few tickets to address but that will wait…
Q – Have you got many friends and family here tonight to watch?
A – I’m leaving tickets for about 20 people but lots of other people I know went and bought tickets on their own and are coming through tonight.
Q – Can you point to anything that’s really helped your game this year?
A – Confidence. Just enjoying myself out there and enjoying myself. I figure when I’m having fun that’s when I play my best basketball and just trying to tune out any self-doubt or negativity and going out there and helping this team win games.
Q – With the negativity that must have been hard being in Philadelphia, one of the hardest fan bases in North America?
A – Well if you’re losing games like we were last year then they’re definitely tough fans. My way out of that was I just got rid of my social media and tried to do other things with my time and focus on other things and that’s helped.
Q – In terms of the confidence piece how much of a self-fulfilling prophecy is that?
A – Yeah for any shooter I think when they see the shot drop a few times their confidence grows and you just begin to get more comfortable and I think that’s what’s happened over the past couple of weeks.
Q – With those first two years being an adjustment were there many calls home to Mississauga?
A – I always call home and they’re always giving me feedback and advice regardless of if I’m playing well or whether I’m playing crappy they always want to support me whatever I end up doing.
Q – The end of last year you broke through a bit, did that help your confidence going into the summer?
A – I think at the end of last year even though we were still having trouble winning games it was an opportunity for all of us to find a rhythm in the last 10-15 games of the season. I used it to my advantage and tried to carry that into this year.
Q – What were some of the things you were working on in the summer?
A – Ball handling, shooting, just my overall strength. I started taking yoga and pilates classes which has helped. There’s breathing and clearing my mind and I don’t think it helped me a ton on the mental side but it didn’t hurt.
Q – How did you first get involved in basketball?
A – I was seven or eight and my uncle’s Lithuanian church team was playing. I hadn’t played but I was pretty tall so he asked me and played in a tournament in Chicago. I remember just coming home from that tournament and started practicing every day. My parents built a court in our backyard and it was cold in the winter so I started out wearing gloves but I didn’t like how my shot would feel so my dad hooked up this heater to a propane tank that would blow out fire and I’d go up to it every few minutes and warm up.
Q – The Sixers are a young team, how is the development coming along?
A – I think it’s coming along well, not too quickly as far as our record goes but I think anyone who is a part of this organization and has been watching us play can see the improvements and the light at the end of the tunnel. We’re just staying positive and the coaching staff has been giving us great game plans so we can hopefully carry on that improvement through the rest of the season.
Q – What’s it been like playing with Joel Embiid? Everyone’s been fascinated with him coming back.
A – He’s a fun guy to be around not just on the court. Off the court he’s just a great person. Obviously everybody can see through social media how funny he can be and the personality he has. I think everyone who’s watched him can see he’s going to be a pretty dominant force in this league for quite some time if he stays healthy.
Q – Do you believe him that he killed that lion when he was a child?
A – I honestly haven’t heard that story but I wouldn’t put it past Joel to do that. I wouldn’t doubt it.
Q – Wednesday night might be Vince Carter’s last at the ACC, is it crazy what he’s doing this year?
A – We played them just last week and he played almost 40 minutes so it’s crazy how his body’s holding up and looking like a great player, but definitely a sad moment if that’s going to be his last game in Toronto and hope the fans give him a lot of love.
Q – Was he a big influence on you?
A – Oh definitely, just being in Toronto and representing the Raptors. He taught me how to windmill jam as you can see from my athleticism. Nah, he was just that guy that was easy to look up to and admire his game.
Q – What’s it been like to match up with him, maybe not as much lately but at first was it kind of surreal?
A – It’s fun and definitely one of the matchups I look forward to most. I was guarding him the other game and the ball was out of bounds and he just tapped me on the shoulder like “What up Nik?” and I was like “What up Vince is this like year 35 for you?” and he was like “That’s real cute,” just having that conversation right there is cool for me because not many kids get to grow up and go against Vince Carter.