The Times West Virginian

March 10, 2014

HERTZEL COLUMN- Ejim’s season wasn’t better than Staten’s

By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — You’ll pardon a little old-fashioned outrage this morning, I hope.

It doesn’t come as often from this old body as it used to.

Maturity, and an aching back, causes that, but this morning the only pain being felt is for Juwan Staten.

Oh, you can’t say the league coaches treated him badly when it came to giving out the postseason hardware.

Being named to the All-Big 12 team alongside the likes of Andrew Wiggins and Marcus Smart is not exactly chopped liver, but it is also part of what fuels the fires today.

See, Juwan Staten was the best basketball player in the Big 12 this year.

I won’t even accept an argument about it.

That the league’s coaches saw fit to give it to Melvin Ejim of Iowa State ... well, it kind of tells me how none of them can ever figure out a way to take the conference title away from Bill Self.

They don’t know a good player when they see one.

I know Melvin Ejim had a helluva year. Put his year together and it was better than the far more highly publicized Marcus Smart and Andrew Wiggins.

But it was not a better year than Juwan Staten had.

Let me repeat that so you can hear it:

It was not a better year than Juwan Staten had.

I don’t give a hoot how you look at it.

Ejim was All-Big 12. Staten was All-Big 12 and a member of the All-Defensive team.

Offense ... defense ... both sides of the ball he was among the top five in the conference.

Ejim was the second top scorer in the league. Guess who was first?

Staten, at 18.4 points a game.

Now, Ejim did have the Game of the Year, even the Game of the Century, setting the Big 12’s scoring record with 48 points.

That’s quite a day, yes, but keep in mind the award isn’t Player of the Day.

It’s Player of the Year. Take that 48-point game out of Ejim’s season and you know what, he averages 17.1 points per game, which ties for sixth in the league.

Think he’s even a contender for the Player of the Year title tied for sixth in the league in scoring?

So Staten leads the league in scoring, which probably also makes him the most improved player in the league considering that a year ago he finished fifth in scoring ... not in the league, on the West Virginia team with a 7.6 average.

But now get this, Staten not only is the top scorer in the league, an all-league defensive player, but he also led in assists, seven more than Kane, who was feeding Ejim for his baskets.

Now I ask this: Who was feeding Staten?

The fact of the matter is that he was creating his own shots. I’m not going to go back and look it up, but if I had to wager, I’d bet that no one had more unassisted baskets than Staten.

He was, to be honest, a man on his own with the ball, and was more creative in getting to the hole than anyone I can remember seeing on the Coliseum court.

The fact of the matter was that the ball was in his hands more than any other player in the league, and he was doing more with it.

That, you would think, might create some turnovers.

Staten was second in the league in assist-to-turnover ratio.

In fact — and you’d better sit down for this one if you happen to be one of those who believe Ejim should have won the award over Staten — Ejim had 67 turnovers while Staten had only 64.

You say that’s no big deal, just three turnovers?

You’d be right if Ejim hadn’t played 885 minutes this year and Staten 1,165 minutes.

That’s three less turnovers as a point guard playing 310 more minutes, the equivalent of almost eight more games.

Now put them head-to-head, the teams splitting two games.

Ejim came into the first WVU game off that 48-point effort. He scored nine points, Staten 19.

In the two games, head-to-head, Staten scored 38 points to 13 by Ejim. He made 15-of-36 shots to 4-of-16 for Ejim. He had 10 assists to two for Ejim.

Folks, it’s no contest.

The shame of it all is that Staten set two goals this year; one was to be a unanimous All-Big 12 selection, the other was to be Player of the Year.

He reached neither ... and he reached both.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.