In the 2010-2011 season, Juwan Staten’s future looked bright. He was a true freshman that was averaging 8.5 points, 5.4 assists and almost 30 points a game at Dayton, where he was named to the Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team.
Staten says he will focus more on defense this coming season.
That success led him to seek a transfer to play at the highest level of college hoops, and eventually some very high expectations from West Virginia fans. Unfortunately, he took a step back, averaged 7.6 points, 3.3 assists and didn’t make a single three-pointer all season. At today’s press conference, though, head coach Bob Huggins says he expects a huge bounce back year for Staten – and his teammates noticed it, too.
“Juwan is playing a lot more comfortable,” said backcourt mate, Eron Harris. “Last year, he was kind of in a box, it seemed like to me. This year, he’s opened it up more, he’s on attack. He’s sharing the ball a lot.”
As for the lack of outside shooting game, Harris says he’s seen vast improvement there as well.
“Last year, we didn’t see him shoot a lot of jump shots, as far as threes, but I think this year we’re going to see him shoot some threes,” said Harris. “He’s feeling a lot more comfortable with that. I can’t wait to see how he contributes.”
All of his offensive contributions aside, though, this offseason he has spent most of his focus on improving his defense thanks to some gentle encouragement from the Mountaineer Head Coach.
“Until I met Coach Huggins, I was just kind of an offensive player,” admitted Staten. “I played a little defense, just enough not to stand out on defense, but I realized that wasn’t enough for Coach Huggs. He was always getting on me and telling me I wasn’t doing enough.”
His defensive ability has never been in question, it was more due to the fact he did not put the effort on that side of the ball. “I’ve always been confident in my defense, but I never had a defensive mentality,” said Staten.
But that’s changed now, and his new defensive-oriented approach should be beneficial to the whole team.
“He can be the best defender in the nation if he wants to with his size and his quickness and athleticism,” said Harris of Staten. “He guards the point guard, so he’s the head of the defense. I think we are a better defensive team when he’s on the floor… when Juwan leads us with the defense, we feel a lot more confident.”
And taking that new role as the leader of the team is something Staten is willing to do, especially after recognizing that there was no one who stepped up last season.
“When (Coach Huggins’) team is really good is when he has a player that he can trust, that really knows what’s going on. I (saw) that with “KJ” (Kevin Jones). He really trusted KJ and put a lot of responsibility on KJ, and Truck (Bryant) as well. He kind of left it up to them to lead the team,” said Staten. “Last year, he didn’t have that type of player to put the responsibility on. So I wanted to be that player this year that he could give a lot of responsibility to and just know that I’m not going to go out there and play the way he wants me to play.”
EerSports' Alissa Hudak contributed to this article.