Staten Becoming a Special Player
The more I watch Juwan Staten play the more I realize what a special talent he is becoming on the basketball court.
Staten is one of 23 players up for this year’s Cousy Award, presented annually to college basketball’s top point guard. There are some outstanding point guards across the country this year, and Staten certainly deserves to be considered among them.
During Wednesday night’s loss at Iowa State, he had 19 points, five rebounds, four assists and just one turnover in what is becoming a routine performance for the junior.
He has scored at least 14 points in 20 straight games now, only failing to reach double digits once this season in a blowout victory against Loyola when his points really weren’t needed.
He has had at least five assists or more in 20 of 28 games, with one turnover or less in 15 of those contests. He has also had three double-doubles this year - in points and rebounds (not points and assists) - and he’s led his team in rebounding 10 times so far this year. Keep in mind, Staten is listed at 6-feet-1 but that’s probably stretching it a little bit.
He is at or near the top of just about every meaningful statistical category in the Big 12 Conference, or what is becoming known as the No. 1 basketball league in America. He is first in assists, second in assist-to-turnover ratio, third in scoring, fourth in field goal percentage, fifth in steals, and is close to the top in all of the specialty stats as well.
Staten is actually averaging more points per game in the nation’s No. 1 basketball league than his overall season scoring average (19.6 to 18.1), despite going up against every team twice during the regular season.
That he continues to score - with teams having thorough and complete scouting reports on him - is a true measure of how well he is playing right now.
Nobody in the Big 12 has played more minutes than Staten’s 1,051 (and counting). And nobody in the league this year has reached 500 points, 150 assists and 150 rebounds faster than Juwan Staten has.
In fact, nobody in West Virginia University history has ever achieved that notable trifecta – not the Logo, not Hot Rod Hundley, not Rod Thorn, not Fritz Williams nor Wil Robinson, all of them All-American players.
Staten, with regular season games remaining against TCU, Oklahoma and Kansas, plus whatever the Mountaineers can accomplish in postseason play, has a real shot of reaching 600 points, 200 assists and 200 rebounds. Right now he sits at 506 points, 167 assists and 167 rebounds heading into Saturday’s game against the Horned Frogs.
Those three figures – his points, rebounds and assists - give you a pretty good idea of what a well-rounded player Juwan Staten has become. Of course, we’ve seen this play out many times before with Bob Huggins-coached guys who buy into what he’s teaching and are willing to learn from a master.
We saw it with Joe Alexander. We saw it with Alex Ruoff; we saw it with Darris Nichols, Joe Mazzulla, De’Sean Butler, Devin Ebanks, Kevin Jones and on and on.
Now we are seeing it with Staten.
There were hints during the offseason that 2014 was going to be different year for Staten, who averaged a very ordinary 7.6 points, 3.3 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game in 2013, two years after transferring from Dayton.
No. 1, Staten made it a point to sit down with Huggins during the summer to get a better feel for what the coach wanted from his point guard. Staten watched tape on his own, studied other outstanding point guards and wanted to play like them.
No. 2, he got into the gym and worked hard on his overall game. Staten has improved his defense, he has improved his jump shot, and most significantly, he is a much more effective player when going to the basket.
Staten got to the rim last year but he didn’t always finish. Some of that was getting used to the bigger players he faces on a nightly basis in the Big 12, and some of that was the time he has put in with the coaching staff working on finishing through contact. Now when Staten gets to the basket he usually scores – or he gets the ball to one of his teammates in a great spot to score.
No. 3, Staten has an unusually high basketball IQ and that shows up frequently on the court. He knows where to get the ball on offense and he almost always knows where the other team wants to get the ball when he’s playing defense. Oh, by the way, did I mention that he leads the team with 34 steals?
Finally, Staten has taken it upon himself to become the unquestioned leader of this year’s team. There are no seniors on the squad and it is apparent to anyone who watches West Virginia play that the 15-13 Mountaineers are still learning how to win basketball games.
Sometimes they have been successful, as witnessed by West Virginia’s recent three-game winning streak against three really good basketball teams - Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma - and sometimes the Mountaineers have fallen short, most notably during their recent three-game slide against Texas, Baylor and Iowa State, which, by the way, are three really good basketball teams as well.
We knew this was going to be a transition year for the Mountaineers, and we knew there are more weapons in West Virginia’s arsenal that Huggins wasn’t going to have at his disposal in 2014. But having Staten blossom into a reliable and dependable player has been a pleasant surprise.
Of course, there are still parts of his game that need work. Because he is such an explosive player with the basketball in his hands, teams now sag off of him and dare him to shoot the 3. He has only attempted 14 3s so far this year, making five.
It’s great that he understands his strengths and is sticking to them, but adding some additional range to his jump shot down the road will only make him more difficult to guard as his career progresses.
That is another piece to the puzzle that he can work on this summer and add to his overall game. And when that happens, then you’re talking about a really, really special player.
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