It's all fun and games for Stauskas

It's not hard to keep basketball in perspective when those closest to you jokingly taunt you for every accomplishment. But Stauskas wouldn't have it any other way.

When he's playing -- whether it's in Atlanta for the national championship or at a rural Massachusetts carnival, shooting for a stuffed animal -- they get in his ear. They come up with the most ridiculous insults they can conjure, just to see if they can get a smile out of Stauskas.

But they don't poke fun out of jealousy. It was never like that.

Valhouli-Farb and Prins would only make the JV team at St. Mark's, and when they'd occasionally go one-on-one, they'd play what Stauskas called "100 to 1," meaning in order to win, Stauskas needed to score 100 points before his opponent got to one point.

Loser bought dinner.

"It was basically a way for him to get free food every night," Prins joked.

So they made it to every one of his varsity games and yelled at him from the sidelines. He'd laugh and joke back.

"We try to keep him as ..." Prins said, looking for the right word, "... as grounded as possible."

Following Michigan's victory over Florida in last season's NCAA tournament, in which Stauskas went 6-for-6 from 3-point range, Valhouli texted him, "Nice free throws."

Stauskas had gone 2-for-3.

After the Wolverines' loss at Duke earlier this month, Prins texted Stauskas to check in. This was a time when they were unsure how Stauskas would respond. It had been one of his least productive college games and the criticism would likely pile up soon. They didn't want to seem too insensitive.

"How's your ankle?" Prins texted.

To which Stauskas responded, "Be honest with me. Do you think I'll be on 'SportsCenter' Not Top 10 for throwing my shoe into the crowd?"

This summer, Stauskas elected to stay in Ann Arbor and work with the strength-and-conditioning staff at Michigan. He started meeting with a sports psychologist on campus every week. And he began reading a book, "Do You QuantumThink?"

Stauskas carries around a notebook so when he sees a sentence or thought, he can jot it down and commit it to memory.

"The main thing I'm learning from it is throwing away all the preconceptions that you come up with, I guess ... it's hard to explain," he said. "Kind of just learning how to live from not knowing."

The preconceptions of what a basketball player should or shouldn't be, how he can or can't approach a game, what the No. 1 team or an unranked team will or will not accomplish -- those kinds of preconceptions.

But, like all things, it's teaching him about the bigger picture, too. Stauskas explains how one chapter is about life being whatever you want to make it. Right now in the long term, for him, it's the NBA. If that doesn't pan out, he'll make it something else.

In the short term, it's the Arizona game. It's him getting a chance to play the game he loves in Crisler Arena with his teammates.

"I'd love to get that win on Saturday," Stauskas said. "Win or lose though, I'll definitely be good."

It is, after all, just hoops.

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