West Virginia men set personal goals aside, want to dominate Big 12
West Virginia guard Juwan Staten said he wants to improve his outside shooting and assert himself more as a leader. But there are bigger goals.
“We’ve got to get more wins,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing.”
WVU went 17-16 overall and 9-9 in the Big 12 last season, the first time in 22 years that a Bob Huggins-coached team went two straight seasons without making the NCAA Tournament.
“I’m not really concerned with personal accolades,” said Staten, the preseason Big 12 player of the year. “I want to make the team better. I want to do something I haven’t done — play in the NCAA Tournament.”
Concerned or not, the accolades have piled up for the 6-foot-1 senior who led the conference in scoring (18.1 points per game) and made the All-Big 12 first team and All-defensive team. The Dayton transfer was second in assists (5.8) and third in field-goal percentage (.486). No player in the conference exceeded his 37.3 minutes per game. In Big 12 games he averaged 39.3.
“I kind of want him to do the same thing he did a year ago,” Huggins said. “I’d just like to get the same kind of production with not as many minutes. I think he wore down a little bit at the end of the year.”
Staten said he already is shooting better, a scary notion considering he is nearly unstoppable driving to the rim. Known for his maturity and work ethic, Staten said he is asserting his leadership with teammates.
“I’ve tried to talk to them a lot,” said Staten, who is attending graduate school. “It’s the coaches’ primary job to do the yelling. I try to give them an extra voice or just tell ’em another way to look at it, and try to encourage them more.”
Practices have been long (some lasting as long three hours) and intense, Staten said, describing them as “war,” with the emphasis on “defense and rebounding.” No wonder. Last season, the Mountaineers finished eighth in the Big 12 in scoring defense, eighth in rebounding margin and 10th in field-goal percentage defense.
“I think we’re finally maybe going to try to guard somebody, which would be something new,” Huggins said.
“I think we’re better defensively,” Staten said. “A lot of the guys we brought in are extra athletic. They make up for a lot of things we didn’t have in the past.”
Staten cited 6-9 freshman Elijah Macon and Jonathan Holton, a 6-7 junior college transfer, as “athletic players from the start.”
After the transfers of guards Eron Harris and Terry Henderson, the Nos. 2 and 3 scorers last season, Macon and Holton will add an inside presence along with 6-9 sophomore Nathan Adrian and Devin Williams, a 6-9, 255-pound sophomore who started 31 games as a freshman, averaged 8.4 points and led the team in rebounding (7.2).
Bob Cohn is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected].