ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Just as he had done after countless long-range baskets during Michigan’s run to the final eight of the NCAA tournament, Nik Stauskas raised his arm and extended three fingers.
This time, though, he wasn’t celebrating a 3-pointer.
He had just been recognized by thunderous applause from President Barack Obama during the president’s visit to campus on Wednesday.
Obama stopped at the university to campaign for his plan to raise the federal minimum wage, but the nation’s No. 1 basketball fan couldn’t help but engage in a little hoops talk. Obama gave shout-outs to Stauskas and fellow Wolverines stars Glenn Robinson III and Jordan Morgan, praising the latter for his pursuit of an advanced engineering degree.
Obama’s Ann Arbor stop came three days after a 75-72 loss to Kentucky left Michigan one win short of a second straight Final Four appearance.
The president told Stauskas, Robinson and Morgan they “had a great run,” and if they had “5 more seconds” against the Wildcats, “it would have been helpful.”
Obama lamented his pre-tournament picks, which had in-state rival Michigan State winning the crown. The Spartans also lost in the NCAA quarterfinals, prompting Obama to tell the crowd Wednesday that his “bracket’s a mess.”
Stauskas and Robinson are sophomores, and it would not be a surprise if either of them turned professional. Obama said as much during his speech: “Stauskas got a contract coming up.”
After a mix of laughter and cheers, the president quickly told the Big Ten Player of the Year: “I’m saying later. I’m not telling him to leave. I wasn’t editorializing on that.”
When the event ended and Obama left the room, Stauskas went to leave also, but was quickly surrounded by fellow students who asked to take pictures with him.
“It was great,” the 6-foot-6 guard from Mississauga, Ontario, said of the attention paid to him by Obama. “The president knows who I am. He knows my name. That’s crazy.”