We've all heard the stat by now. Juwan Staten is the first Mountaineer men's basketball player ever to have 500 points, 150 rebounds, and 150 assists in a season. He's a Cousy Award finalist, given to the nation's top college point guard. Those aren't the only impressive feats, though. With two games and the conference tournament to go, he's climbing the all-time single season mark in several categories. Per WVUStats.com, Staten also ranks among the school's single season leaders in the following categories:
• 16th most free throws attempted (216) & made (158)
• 6th most assists with 172
• 5th highest assist per game average at 5.9
• 3rd in assist/turnover ratio at 3.02
• 7th in minutes per game at 37.48
From last season, Staten has improved his points per game total by over ten, his rebounds per game total by four, and his assists per game total by almost three. He's shooting almost 12% better from the field (37.6% to 49.3%) and attempting almost four more free throws per game. It obviously can't be totally proven, but I feel confident in saying that there has never been a player wearing the gold and blue to improve as much from one year to the next as Staten has (If you have a candidate, don't be afraid to comment below). Joe Alexander made a huge leap from his sophomore to junior season to become a top 10 pick in the NBA draft, but I don't think even his was as dramatic.
From the time Staten first stepped on campus in Morgantown, WVU fans everywhere had extremely high expectations for him. Everyone knew the impressive numbers he put up as a freshman at Dayton. Having to sit out a year increased the anticipation for his debut. He and Aaric Murray were supposed to keep the NCAA tournament streak going, and possibly much more. Obviously, those expectations weren't met. He (along with basically the entire team) never could quite put it together in the 2013 season. Looking back, and finding out just how dysfunctional that entire situation was, I'm not sure that was entirely his fault. But last season for Staten has to feel like an eternity ago.
It seems the most often reason brought up for Juwan's dramatic improvement are those offseason trips to Coach Huggins' house. Huggs has mentioned it multiple times and almost anytime he speaks with the national media. Staten watched tape of Nick Van Exel and Steve Logan, two of the best point guards Huggins had while coaching at Cincinnati. He wanted to know exactly what his coach expected, what it took to thrive at point guard in his system. It has obviously paid off. If you go strictly by the numbers, Staten's 2014 season stacks up nicely against Van Exel and Logan's best seasons with the Bearcats. Take a look at those two guards' final seasons in college (Van Exel left after two years, Logan stayed all four) compared to Staten this year and keep in mind Juwan in all likelihood will be back for one more season:
|Van Exel, 1993||18.3||4.5||2.4||38.6%|
The numbers are very similar. While he is below both in scoring, he tops them in assists, rebounding, and field goal percentage. Van Exel also made major strides in his second year with Huggins, averaging six more points per game.
Staten doesn't stand out in numbers only, though. It is clear he has taken leadership of this team and sets the example that everyone else follows. You know if Bob Huggins is complementing you on your work ethic, you are a hard worker. First in the gym, last one to leave. That's a phrase always brought up when talking about the guys who truly want to be great. How many wins do they have this year without him? If a miracle occurs and the Mountaineers are in the NCAA tournament, he'll be without a doubt the main reason why.
No one could have seen this coming. And maybe Staten himself didn't see it coming to this extent, while he was watching the tape of the great point guards Bob Huggins has had over the years. He watched the players whose performance he hoped to replicate, the ones with impressive numbers, leading their teams the way the coach intended. He studied the great point guards that Huggins has coached, and now he has become one.