At this time last year, many West Virginia basketball fans would have been willing to trade Juwan Staten for a middle school sixth man and a pepperoni roll.
The Dayton transfer — hyped as a potential NBA player upon his arrival in Morgantown — struggled through the Mountaineers’ disappointing 13-19 finish, turning the ball over, taking ill-advised shots and generally not leading his team down the right path.
He averaged 7.6 points, 3.3 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game and shot just 38 percent from the field. He failed to make a single 3-pointer.
When guys like Aaric Murray, Jabarie Hinds, Keaton Miles and Aaron Brown left the team at the conclusion of the season, there were many Mountaineer supporters who were upset that Staten didn’t go with them.
A year later, Staten is a WVU fan favorite, and on Sunday he was announced as a member of the five-man All-Big 12 first team, as well as the league’s All-Defensive Team.
For the former Oak Hill Academy star, the last 12 months have been hard to imagine, but they weren’t something Staten ever saw as unlikely.
“I think it was just a progression,” said the 6-foot-1 freshman point guard. “If anybody has followed me through my years of basketball, I’ve always been a good player. In high school, I was a top 50 player in some rankings and always a top 100 player. It’s not like I just came out of nowhere. I’ve always been a good player. But when you move up in levels, you’ve always got to make adjustments.
“I had a good freshman year (at Dayton), but when I transferred to a bigger school and to a new team, new conference, new coach, there were just some adjustments I needed to make. After a year of learning everything, I was able to make those adjustments. That’s why I’m having the year I am now.”
Statistically, that year has been one of the best in the Big 12, although Staten was edged by Iowa State’s Melvin Ejim for Player of the Year honors.
Staten finished the regular season, which saw WVU finish 17-14 overall and 9-9 in league play, leading the Big 12 in scoring with 18.4 points per game. He was tops in assists with nearly six per outing.
In assist-to-turnover ratio, Staten was second, averaging 2.9 assists for every turnover. The undersized guard was 17th in the conference in rebounding, fighting for almost six boards per game. He ranked fifth in field goal percentage (.492) and eighth in steals (37).
“When you talk about a true lead guard, there’s no question he’s the best (in the Big 12),” said Kansas head coach Bill Self Saturday after WVU upset the No. 8 Jayhawks in the regular season finale. “You can put (Oklahoma State’s) Marcus (Smart) or (Iowa State’s DeAndre) Kane in that equation, but they’re more combo guards. When you talk about a true point guard, there’s no question he’s the best.”
Staten will lead his team into the Big 12 tournament this week. The sixth-seeded Mountaineers will face third-seed Texas at 9:30 p.m. Thursday.
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Staten was the only Mountaineer on the All-Big 12 first team, which also included Ejim, Kane, Smart and Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins, who finished his high school career in the Mountain State at Huntington Prep. Wiggins was also the league’s Freshman of the Year.
WVU had no one on the second or third teams, but landed Eron Harris as an honorable mention selection. The sophomore guard averaged 17.9 points and 3.6 rebounds per game.
Kansas’ Joel Embiid, a second-team pick, was the league’s defensive player of the year. The 7-foot center blocked 72 shots this season.
Kane, a Marshall transfer, was the Newcomer of the Year. The Sixth Man Award went to Tyler Neal of Oklahoma and Phil Forte of Oklahoma State. Texas’ Rick Barnes was the Coach of the Year, leading a team that lost its top four scorers from a year ago to a 22-9 record.
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