By Jonathan Hevron
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
West Virginia's rebound from last season has coincided with the blooming star-power of junior guard Juwan Staten. As a sophomore, Staten averaged just over 7.6 points per game and dished out a season total of 101 assists for the Mountaineers. In his second year donning the Old Gold and Blue, he ranks top three in the Big 12 Conference in scoring, assists and assists-to-turnover ratio.
Staten has become a consistent threat, and has a natural knack for passing the basketball and getting to the rim. The scoring success for the Mountaineers' floor general has to come as no surprise to those who played with him growing up.
“I was always the best scorer on the team when I was younger, so I didn't worry about defense. I could always pass the ball, but always concentrated on scoring,” said Staten.
Staten's career started playing for his father, Bill Staten, a long-time coach in the Dayton Area.
“I always stressed to Juwan growing up that you have to put in hard work,” Bill Staten said. “Work is the key. I made sure that from a young age Juwan would be able to dribble the ball, pass to the open man, be able to use both hands...all the fundamentals.”
Staten's prep career started at Thurgood Marshall High School, which featured Bill Staten on the coaching staff. As a junior at Thurgood Marshall, Staten led the team to the Ohio Division II state championship, averaging 21 points per outing and 9.3 assists. He was an all-state selection and the Dayton area player of the year.
“I was the leading scorer on my team since my freshman year, all conference and was getting all of these accolades, but I felt like I wasn't playing tough enough competition,” Staten said.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound guard left home for the first time to play at the prestigious Oak Hill Academy (Va.), known for producing National Basketball Association (NBA) caliber players.
“There were a lot of mixed emotions after Juwan transferred. I had always coached him to that point, so I was sad to see him playing away from home, but I knew that it was the right move and better for his development. Oak Hill Academy has a great tradition,” Bill Staten said.
“When I got to the opportunity to go to Oak Hill Academy, I jumped at it,” Staten explained. “It is a top school that has a reputation for putting out the best point guards and has a strong bloodline with a lot of players that go on to play in the pros.”
After posting a perfect record at home and a 29-4 overall record, USA Today tabbed Oak Hill the No. 7 team in the country. Staten graduated and took his offensive prowess back home to the University of Dayton.
“Dayton is a great program, and I really did like everything about it. For me, being from Dayton, I wanted to go there and be the hometown hero,” Staten said.
And a hometown hero he was for the Flyers. Staten started 34 games and led the Atlantic 10 with 190 assists. He averaged 8.5 points per game, and was named to the Atlantic10 All-Rookie Team.
But something was still off for Staten. Much like his time at Thurgood Marshall, he felt that his development was being stunted. After gaining national attention as a freshman, he sought a bigger challenge.
“After assessing the situation, I felt that in order for me to be the type of player I wanted to be, I needed to expand and play against the best competition,” Staten said. “I wanted to play for a great coach, for a great team, in a great conference and go to the NCAA tournament.”
Juwan arrived in Morgantown in 2011, ready to compete in a top conference under a legendary coach. For the first time in his life, though, he had to sit out a season.
“It was very difficult for Juwan to have to watch his teammates compete and sit on the bench,” Bill Staten explained. “I would call him quite frequently just to keep him motivated and make sure he was working on something to get better everyday, so that when his time came, he would be ready.”
After a mediocre 19-14 year and a .500 record in conference play in 2011-12, Juwan finally saw the court in 2012 for West Virginia.
“I think the year off helped me in the long run. By having a whole year to sit out, I had no pressure to perform and I could just go in to the gym to work on everything,” Staten explained. “My dad told me to be consistent, put shots up and get better at something everyday.”
Staten's game immediately took a different form compared to his time at Dayton and in high school. Staten began to run the offense, and not just look for his points. He led the Mountaineers in assists and paced the Big 12 Conference in assists-to-turnover ratio (2.90), but he also began to think about defense, leading the team with 38 steals.
“Coach (Bob) Huggins changed how I think. He taught me how to run the offense, get other people great shots and keep them out of bad positions. I now know when to run certain plays and how to control tempo. I think that is why I am having a lot of success right now,” Staten admitted.
Coach Huggins has been able to mold Juwan into one of the biggest threats in the Big 12 Conference. The combination of Juwan's ability to change direction and go from zero to 60 in the blink of an eye has allowed him to put his teammates in open positions and find the rim at will.
“He's way better on the ball now and has a different mentality this year,” said coach Huggins. “It went back to him being the best guy in high school, but now he knows how hard he has to play. He comes in and listens. He’s trying to do the right things. He’s trying to run our team. He’s trying to be an example for the other guys.”
The public relations major models his game after former 12-time NBA all-star, Isiah Thomas.
“My dad used to call me Isiah Thomas growing up, saying I had an Isiah Thomas type of game,” Staten recalled.
“Isiah would always trick and fool people, and I see Juwan doing that a lot, to this day. He keeps people of balance and always guessing,” Bill Staten said.
On any given night, you can see Juwan pulling off his best Isiah Thomas impression, hitting a 15-foot jump shot and popping right back up converting an “And-One”.
“Isiah Thomas had that mid-range pull up and toughness. He was always hitting the ground and arguing with the biggest person on the court. He was fearless,” Staten said.
With that kind of mentality, it is no wonder why Staten has emerged as the player he has in the Big 12 Conference.