|Guard Juwan Staten said he made an effort this summer to try and understand what Coach Bob Huggins wants out of his point guards this season. The Mountaineers face Fairmont State in an exhibition game Monday night at the WVU Coliseum at 7 p.m.
|All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks photo
As a public relations major, junior Juwan Staten
understands the value of communication, so he made it a point last summer to sit down with Bob Huggins to get a better idea of what the veteran coach wanted from his point guard.
What came out of those discussions was a much better understanding of what he needed to do to become a better basketball player and help make West Virginia a better basketball team.
“Coach Huggs is different than any coach I’ve ever played for so it took a little while to understand the things that he wanted from me,” said Staten. “But after this summer just putting in all the work, watching a lot of film and having a lot of conversations with him, I feel like I finally understand exactly what it is that he wants.”
Staten dished out an assist to his father, Billy, for helping him get a better handle on the situation as well.
“My dad has been around for a while and he just took me back to know how Huggs was and the teams that he had and how Huggs is all about defense,” said Staten. “So that’s the one thing that I had to change coming into this year. I just wanted to pick up my defense and let the offense build off of defense because I know coach is definitely big on defense. If you’re giving him what he wants on defense he tends to be a little more lenient on the offensive side.”
Juwan has all of the attributes needed to be a big-time defender – strength, quickness and intelligence – he just never really applied himself on that end of the floor the way Huggins wanted him to.
“I thought I was doing enough to get by, but once I really started forcing the issue and leaving my comfort zone is when I needed to change,” admitted Staten. “I always knew I could play enough defense to guard my man, but I wasn’t really big about disrupting my man or disrupting the other team’s offense. That’s something I’ve really introduced to my game this year and it’s something my coaches are staying on me about.
“Even my teammates are encouraging me to pick my defense up and play harder because they feel that with me being ahead of the defense and I play harder, that makes them play harder.”
Staten’s new approach has clearly made a difference in the eyes of those closely associated with the team. Huggins said earlier this week that West Virginia’s defense is significantly better whenever Staten is on the floor.
“He’s way better on the ball,” said Huggins. “I think he would say that his mentality last year was to conserve himself. That goes back to being the best guy in high school, but I think he understands how hard he has to play – and I think he trusts the fact that if you play hard and you need a break, you can go back in whenever you want. I’ve always been that way.”
Staten pointed out that Huggins’ best teams have always had a player on the floor that he could trust to make the right decisions and get the ball to the right people in the right places. He has taken it upon himself to try and become that guy this year.
“I feel like Coach Huggs does the best, or his team is really good, when he has a player that he can trust that really knows what’s going on,” explained Staten. “I’ve seen that with KJ (Kevin Jones). He really trusted KJ, put a lot of responsibility on KJ and trusted Truck (Bryant) as well and kind of left it up to them to lead the team.”
According to Staten, last year there was no one willing or capable of doing that.
“We really didn’t have that player that he could put that type of responsibility on so I wanted to be that player this year that he could give a lot of responsibility to and just go out there and play the way he wants me to play.”
So far, so good, says Huggins.
“I think Juanny has been terrific on both sides of the ball,” he said. “He’s really trying to understand what we want done. When you’re going to have the ball as much as he’s going to have the ball you have to know who’s going to come open and when they’re going to come open and if they don’t come open why and what that opens up.”
Staten also has the ability to put the ball in the hole, despite failing to make a single 3 last year in 31 games. He scored 18 against VMI, had 17 against Eastern Kentucky and scored 15 in games against Davidson and Oklahoma. He finished the season averaging 7.6 points with a team-best 101 assists.
The best part of his offensive game is getting to the rim by using his great quickness to get past defenders. His driving layup in the game’s waning seconds helped West Virginia defeat Virginia Tech last year in Morgantown, and there were many other times when he got to the basket with great ease. Sometimes, however, the ball didn’t always go through the cylinder, especially when he went up against much bigger defenders.
“That’s one of the things I’ve definitely been working on is finishing through contact,” said Staten. “I’ve spent a lot of time in the weight room with (strength coach) Andy (Kettler) making sure that I was doing everything I needed to do in the weight room and then working with Coach (Erik) Martin and Coach (Ron) Everhart on just finishing techniques.”
When Staten was at Dayton playing in the Atlantic 10, whenever he got to the rim he wasn’t quite challenged the way shot-blockers come after him in the Big 12.
“That was probably the thing that was most different from the Atlantic 10,” he admitted. “There were athletic players in the Atlantic 10, but it was a lot easier to get to the rim and finish. Coming into this conference, it seems if a team doesn’t have a 7-footer down there then they have a 6-8 guy who jumps higher than the 7-footer. That’s definitely a big difference, but after being in the conference a year, I think that’s something I’ve adjusted to.”
And the pathway to the basket could become much easier for Staten if sophomores Terry Henderson
and Eron Harris
continue to score from the wings to stretch out defenses. Staten said he can’t wait to be out on the floor with both of them this year.
“I definitely like playing with Terry and Eron because they can both shoot,” he said. “That makes my job a whole lot easier because I can constantly find them. It’s not just one that I have to look for. It’s both guys, so it’s really a win-win situation, especially when they are both on.
“If people have to stretch their defense out to guard them, that means a lot more areas to drive and a lot more people that they’re not going to be concentrating on.”
It’s quite obvious that Staten has a much more sophisticated understanding of the game now, and once again, Huggins believes that comes back to the time Juwan spent with the coaches last summer.
“The more you know the better player you’re going to be,” said Huggins. “Guys that are great passers are great passers because they know when people are supposed to come open and they get them the ball accordingly.
“He’s just gotten much, much, much better,” Huggins concluded.