CLEVELAND — Six years ago this March Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas sealed their names in the history books as freshmen under John Beilein. Six years ago to this very day (March 3) Trey Burke poked the ball loose from Keith Appling as GR3 and Stauskas notched their first win against Michigan State (despite the Wolverines not making a three.) That win sparked a run to the Final Four, and the national championship game against Louisville that both Robinson and Stauskas played their parts in. The pair were also key cogs in Michigan’s march to the 2014 Big Ten Championship and a trip to the Elite Eight.
Flash forward to 2019, and both Robinson and Stauskas are fifth-year NBA veterans. The two have called multiple cities home through trades and free agency, and Saturday evening in Cleveland, the two reunited as Robinson, and the Pistons faced Stauskas and the Cavaliers. For the former Michigan teammates, it was the first time both played in the same game since November 9, 2016. Glenn, who was still with the Pacers, played on the same floor as Nik while he was still on the Sixers. Indiana defeated Philadelphia 122-115 that day. This season, Robinson is with his fourth NBA team, Stauskas is with his fifth, having signed with the Cavaliers in February after being traded three times in less than one week. Both former Wolverines were excited to play against one another.
“It’s always fun getting to go up against former teammates,” Stauskas said in the Cavaliers locker room pregame. “We shared some special memories back together at Michigan; lot of wins, lot of success, so I’m happy for him. He is back in Detroit, close to Ann Arbor which is cool for him.”
Robinson III echoed a similar sentiment just down the hallway at Quicken Loans Arena.
“It’s always a good experience, it’s always a little bit different, little bit weird playing against former teammates from that team,” Robinson said, reflecting upon matchups against other Wolverines teammates like Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Caris LeVert. “We had the national championship team, to have five guys that made it to the league is something special, a lot of credit to U of M and Coach B.”
The Pistons came out of the gate firing on Saturday, blitzing the Cavs and building a 42-23 lead after just one quarter. That was when Pistons coach Dwane Casey and Cavaliers interim coach Larry Drew made the call. Both Robinson III and Stauskas entered the game at the start of the second quarter, pitting the former Wolverines against one another. Robinson III struck first when he rebounded a miss by teammate Langston Galloway and sank the second-chance bucket to complete a 7-0 Pistons run.
After a few misses by both teams, Stauskas got himself on the scoresheet 46 seconds later when Detroit’s Luke Kennard fouled him en route to an open basket. That sent the Canadian to the line where he converted both free throw attempts.
With six minutes of the second quarter gone and six minutes left until half time, Casey and Drew removed Robinson and Stauskas from the game. Neither would see consistent action until the fourth quarter when Detroit had the game in hand with a 31 point lead with 12 minutes to play.
Once both were back on the floor for the final eight minutes, the two former Wolverines showed some consistency as the game wore on. Robinson III completed an alley-oop layup off a pass from teammate Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk. Under one minute later, Stauskas completed a drive to the rim for a thunderous dunk that got some of the remaining fans left in the arena on their feet as he put Galloway on a poster. The man who gained the nickname “Sauce Castillo” during his rookie year with the Sacramento Kings said his dunk was a routine play, despite looking like it had a little extra mustard on it.
“Just tried to attack the closeout,” Stauskas said of the pass he received from teammate Channing Frye. “I saw the lane was wide open when I caught the ball on the wing, and obviously there were no bigs in the paint, so it was a good opportunity to attack the rim and go finish.
Robinson flashed a grin when asked about the dunk post game, clearly happy to see his former teammate make a highlight reel play.
“I always knew that he was athletic” chuckled Robinson. “He is a sneaky athletic player, we have always said that since college. It didn’t surprise me.”
As the final buzzer sounded and the Pistons collected a 129-93 victory over the Cavaliers, Robinson III & Stauskas embraced each other at center court, exchanging words and one final hug before heading back to their respective locker rooms. As both players navigate the occasionally murky waters of being a fringe rotation player in the NBA, they shared some heartfelt words of encouragement, much like they would when they were teammates in Ann Arbor a half-decade ago.
“It felt cool to share a little moment with him on an NBA floor before and after the game,” Robinson said of the postgame exchange.“Glad to see him doing well, glad to see him in a spot where he’s not caring about everything that happened with the trade calls and all that, he is just here to play basketball, and that is good to see.”
“Encouraging each other, try to stay positive,” Stauskas replied when asked what he said to Robinson. “I mean I think both of us have been through some ups and downs in our careers so far, so just wishing him the best. Told him to stay healthy, good luck in the playoffs, hopefully, if they can continue playing at a high level and we just wished each other the best.”
In a league where an 82 game regular season is a grind, and dozens of players get traded each season, the paths for Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas have been far from easy. Saturday night served as a reminder that no matter what the present or future holds for this pair of former Wolverines in the NBA, they and their old Michigan teammates have a familial bond that will remain strong for years to come.