MORGANTOWN - Juwan Staten's first season at West Virginia was rather baffling, to say the least.Consider that the sophomore point guard, who played at Dayton as a freshman in 2010-11 before transferring and sitting out a season, was among the Mountaineers' best and worst shooters. He made more free throws than anyone else, but fewer field goals - and no 3s - than almost any other regular.He had nine double-figure scoring games in an 11-game stretch at one point, but went scoreless in three games and didn't hit double digits at all after Feb. 2.And he led West Virginia in minutes played by a ton - more than 100 minutes, in fact - but for a game and a half in the middle of the season didn't get off the bench.
It was that last little tidbit - his exile from the second half of a win at Texas in January and the following home game against Kansas State - that still remains perplexing. Until then, Staten was the one constant in an otherwise constantly shifting lineup for the Mountaineers. He'd been on the floor an average of 12 minutes per game longer than anyone else up to that point. Then nothing.Bob Huggins never got into the details, but his displeasure with Staten was obvious."It's my team, not his,'' Huggins said at the time. "We talk all about being on the same page. I wrote the book, so he's going to be on the same page with everybody else or he's going to continue to sit over there.''Statistically, at least, it wasn't hard to see why Staten played so much until his benching. He led the Mountaineers in scoring, averaging 11 points, as well as assists and steals and wasn't turning the ball over an unreasonable amount. He isn't a great shooter, but he had a better shooting percentage than any of
WVU's perimeter players except freshman Eron Harris. He was also shooting 82.5 percent from the free-throw line at the time.And in his previous two games Staten had averaged 14 points, shot over 50 percent, made all 11 of his free throws and averaged 6.5 assists against 3.0 turnovers.What exactly Staten's transgressions were still isn't quite clear except that it's merely an issue of doing the things Huggins wanted done on the floor, when he wanted them done.Now, fast-forward to this preseason. Huggins is attempting to remake the Mountaineers after an awful 13-19 season. He's completely remade the roster. There are but five players returning. There are six newcomers, but because two of them appear to be ineligible it is a roster with just nine active scholarship players.
But given Staten's midseason banishment last season and what Huggins apparently felt was an inability to conform, here's a bit of good news: Juwan Staten is trying to become the glue that holds it all together."Juwan's been really, really good,'' Huggins said. "He's been good from a leadership standpoint and he's been good from the standpoint of knowing what we want done.''In order for West Virginia to be any good at all this season, so many moving parts have to come together. Four newcomers - all in the front court - have to be ready to play because Kevin Noreen is the only big man who has been in the program. Harris and Terry Henderson have to continue and improve on their freshmen seasons. Gary Browne has to shake off an awful sophomore season.
And Staten has to get back to being the point guard he was."He's been good,'' Huggins said. "I think he and Gary [Browne] both will tell you they didn't have very good years. I think that's the difference between him and some other guys. Instead of looking for somebody else to blame they kind of looked at themselves and said, 'I've got to do a better job.' And they have."They both were around, came in, asked questions. 'What do I need to do? How do I help the team win?' 'For Staten, the benching last season might have been the best thing that could have happened. Call it a wake-up call."That definitely hit home,'' Staten said. "It affected my play. It affected me on the court, off the court. It affected me in a lot of ways. "My whole life I've been kind of recognized as a leader. So for our coaches to say that last year we didn't have any leadership really struck home for me. I did some stuff, some evaluation, in the offseason. I looked at a lot of game film and a lot of tape and thought about some things I could do this year to help this team and to separate myself as a leader.''
Among those things was simply talking to Huggins and the rest of the coaches. Staten, like everyone else, knew that this season would be a challenge right from the start because of the influx of so many new players. And unless everyone was on the same page, it wasn't going to work."I just wanted to find out what they wanted to stress to the players and come out and help out,'' Staten said. "I've been in the program for three years now. So I think I know what coach Huggs and the other coaches want from us.''Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org
or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1