MORGANTOWN - It was almost a year ago exactly that West Virginia agreed to leave the Big East and join the Big 12.There were official announcements and celebrations galore.There was a collective sigh of relief from those convinced that the Big East would have been the anchor that would forever tie West Virginia's athletic programs to mediocrity.It was, in short - and contrary to what you might be feeling today after a couple of blistering, embarrassing losses by the school's football team - a joyous occasion.
And yet somewhere in Morgantown on that day there was Juwan Staten, perhaps shaking his head and going, "Say what?''After all, he was in Morgantown, at West Virginia, at least in part because he wanted to play basketball in the Big East. He thought he could play in the Big East.And now this."Yeah, it was a little bit of a surprise,'' Staten said.In truth, the reasons Staten came to West Virginia just over a year ago are a bit more complex than simply wanting a higher level of competition.He'd played as a freshman at Dayton, where the basketball was just fine, thanks. After all, wasn't it just three years earlier, in March of 2009, that the Flyers put it to West Virginia in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Minneapolis?Yep.But Staten just wasn't fulfilled there. He doesn't like to spend a lot of time talking about what specifically it was that drove him to transfer from Dayton, where in his one season he started 34 games and led the Atlantic 10 in assists, but it just wasn't going to work out."I'm not going to go into everything that happened at Dayton,'' said Staten, who grew up there. "But at the end of the day, that was something I didn't want to be a part of. I just wanted to look for some other things in a school. And when I was looking for those things, I found them here at West Virginia.''And it's easy for Staten to list those things, one of which was playing for Bob Huggins."I just really wanted to go someplace where I felt comfortable, somewhere that I liked the style of play
and play for a coach that I knew would challenge me and help me get better,'' Staten said. "I just wanted to play for a coach I knew would challenge me, a coach I knew I could get better under, play with a great team in a great conference.''Well, so far, so good. West Virginia has three transfers - center Aaric Murray (LaSalle) and shooting guard Matt Humphrey (Boston College) are the others - and all seem to have acclimated well. Murray and Staten have been on campus more than a year, sitting out residency requirements. Humphrey arrived in June and was immediately eligible as a graduate student.All figure to play prominent roles this season, but Staten might stand out above the others in terms of quickly becoming a part of the program. He's not played a game, yet the 6-foot-1, 190-pound sophomore was elected a team captain. And when the Mountaineers made their public debut last Friday night with a scrimmage in front of 5,100 fans at the Coliseum, Staten was on the floor and playing despite missing much of fall drills injured.In fact, he played nearly the entire 40-minute scrimmage and scored 14 points with eight assists and just one turnover."I thought it was the first time the public actually got to see our team, and every time the team goes out there, I want to play,'' Staten said. "I felt like I was good enough to play so it was something I wanted to do.''And after a year of relative inactivity - Staten practiced every day with the team but didn't play - nothing was going to keep him off the floor. He'd spent a full year watching, after all.
"I took the time to learn everything I could,'' Staten said. "I tried to learn coach Huggs, the things he likes and the things he doesn't like. I tried to pay attention to the things that worked and the things that didn't and tried to give advice to the players and always try to stay positive.''And as it turns out, Staten's move to West Virginia might have worked out better in light of the switch to the Big 12 than had the Mountaineers remained in the Big East. Both are elite conferences, but there is also more of a plodding style associated with the Big East."I like the Big 12 because they run and we're trying to do a lot more running this year,'' Staten said. "And my game is geared toward running. So the Big 12 is maybe a better fit than the Big East."But it didn't really matter if it was the Big East or the Big 12. I knew West Virginia was going to be in a bigger conference and that's really the only thing I was worried about.''Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or email@example.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.